By Elise Franco
Members of Salem’s Elks Lodge 305 have kept the doors open amid a struggle to retain members and keep the money flowing.
The lodge has between 500 and 600 active members, but Al Lesch, lodge member, said that number used to be much higher.
“Everybody is leaving,” he said. “People just aren’t coming in like they used to.”
Reed Votaw, lodge member, said he suspects a combination of the down economy and lack of interest from younger generations.
“The whole Elks population is old,” he said. “We just don’t see a lot of young people come in.”
In June, the Internal Revenue Service released a list of nonprofits that lost their tax-exempt status because they failed to file an annual report for three-straight years.
Mark Hanson, IRS media representative, said many of the organ-izations on the list are defunct. This is the case of two Elks lodges formerly located on West Boardman Street in Youngstown and Highland Avenue in Warren.
Neither lodge is listed on the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks website, www.elks.org.
Lesch said that in the more than 40 years since he joined Lodge 305, he knows many other local lodges have closed.
Ten lodges remain within a 30-mile radius of Youngstown — Warren, Salem, Alliance, Kent and Ravenna in Ohio and Sharon, New Castle, Greenville, Ellwood City and Beaver Falls in Pennsylvania, according to the Elks website.
Lesch said Alliance seems to be the only local Elks that continues to prosper. “They have their own swimming pool and bowling alley,” he said.
Take a trip outside the Valley, however, and Elks members might find a different scene. Both Lesch and Votaw said they’ve been to lodges in Florida and California that have thousands of active members.
Devon Williamson, a former officer, said though not as prosperous as it once was, Lodge 305 won’t close any time soon.
“We’re able to manage the upkeep of our old building,” she said. “Membership might be down, but we keep bringing people in, and we’re not in jeopardy of closing.”