LAKEWOOD RANCH — With resounding enthusiasm, the Lakewood Ranch Elks Lodge #2855 on Oct. 14 agreed to merge with another lodge, more than doubling its membership.
The merger with the 85-year-old Sarasota Lodge #1519, formerly located at 3900 North Lockwood Ridge Road in Sarasota, adds about 400 members to the East County lodge, which already has about 200 members of its own.
“This increase in membership hopefully gives us more opportunity to reach out to the local community for charity purposes,” said Rick Thorson, the Exalted Ruler of Lodge # 1855. “Plus, it pushes us ahead by years toward getting our own lodge.”
The groups are still waiting to get formal merger approval from its governing Grand Lodge in Chicago but expect the OK to come within a few weeks.
Thorson said the lodge already is making preparations to change its name to the Lakewood Ranch/Sarasota Lodge #2855 and had ordered T-shirts, nametags and other items adorned with the new logo. Assets from the old lodge, such as tables and chairs, already have been moved over to Lodge #1855’s leased space at 4908 Lena Road.
Several other changes have been made to accommodate more members, including the implementation of a policy requiring 48-hours notice to reserve a seat for a special event. Building capacity is 150 people, or 75 for a dinner event, Thorson said.
As part of the merger, Lodge #1855 has acquired the Sarasota’ lodge’s old building and land, which will eventually be put on the real estate market. Monies generated by the sale may go toward purchasing a permanent building for the group, Thorson said.
Bob Roland, a member of Lodge #1519 who served on the steering committee for the merger, said the lodge had not been having a “good year” and efforts to revitalize it failed. The Grand Lodge suggested merging with another organization in lieu of closing completely. Members of Lodge #1519 voted Sept. 22 in favor of joining the Lakewood Ranch lodge.
“The closure of Sarasota Lodge #1519 is heartbreaking to the members,” Roland said. “It wasn’t something easily done. It’s been around 85 years. People wanted to try to keep the lodge going, but it didn’t work out.
“This is much better (than closing completely),” he said. “The most exciting thing is to keep the members together and provide them a place to do their thing and do charity work.”
The Elks, formally known as The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America, has just fewer than one million members nationwide. Aside from covering lodge expenses, all monies generated are donated to charity.
The Elks maintain a youth camp in Umatilla funded completely by Elks members. The organization also has a fleet of vans staffed with physical therapists that go to the homes of special-needs children and provide therapy at no cost to their families. The families also are trained in how to give their child therapy and are given the equipment with which to do it, Thorson said.
For more information about the Lakewood Ranch/Sarasota Elks, call 727-2855. For information about the national organization, visit www.elks.org.
Contact Pam Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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