Closures create ‘nightmare’ for clubs

Organizations struggle to serve community, pay bills

The sign outside the Tyrone Elks Lodge 212 sums it up in one word — closed.

“It’s difficult,” said member Bill Phillips, who serves as a state trustee for the fraternal organization. “We have no income coming in.”

The coronavirus pandemic has shuttered businesses, entertainment venues and dining establishments, to name a few, but while those entities may get help from government programs, clubs do not.

Phillips said that due to the status of the Tyrone Elks Lodge 212 as a fraternal organization, there isn’t any help from the government available, so the state organization has approved an aid package to help clubs weather the storm as best they can.

“The state government has not done anything for us,” Phillips said. “I think … some things the state government could have done.”

Helping is the fact the organization’s year runs from April to April, so yearly dues from the Tyrone lodge’s roughly 600 members have been coming. With the overhead of a building and expenses due, such as renewing its liquor license, not being able to hold functions is putting the squeeze on lodges everywhere.

While it has donated to the local food bank, the financial strain makes it difficult to give back to the community when the times have forced the lodge to go into a self-preservation mode.

Phillips pointed out there is limited flexibility with some income sources even when the lodge gets to open, such as small games of chance that have a designated percentage of what can go back into the lodge and what has to go to the community.

“It’s a nightmare,” Phillips said. “It really is.”

State Rep. Scott Conklin, D-State College, has introduced House Bill 777, which would allow for a change to the state’s Small Games of Chance Act during an emergency-related disaster declaration connected to COVID-19. The bill would allow up to 100% of game proceeds to be used to cover expenses, such as rent, payroll and utilities. Currently, the act mandates game proceeds be split — 60% to charitable purposes, with the remaining 40% to be used to support the club’s operations.

Steve Lucas, member of the Tyrone lodge who was set to become the organization’s statewide president at this month’s now-canceled state convention, said the lodges are like any business with some in better financial shape than others.

Tyrone, he said, is in good shape for now, but other lodges are struggling. The money from the state Elks organization may not answer all the problems, but it will help, he said.

Giving limited

For Lucas, the shutdown has canceled two events he is passionate about — the Elks Hoop Shoot and the Tyrone Youth Banquet, which recognizes the achievement of the area’s students.

“We’re going to try to do something this month,” Lucas said. “Go live on Facebook to recognize the kids. There are a lot of great kids in the area, and we want to recognize them.”

Lucas pointed out that with the current situation, the lodge is making adjustments and looking ahead.

“We’ll get it figured out and hopefully get opened back up,” Lucas said.

Michael McDonough, president of the Bishop Eugene A. Garvey Catholic War Veterans Post 1691, as well as a member of the Blair County War Veterans Council, said he’s concerned that even when the club reopens, people won’t congregate like they did before COVID-19 shutdown.

He said the club is used to giving money to people and helping the community, but the situation has it trying to find out if there is any money available to help them.

“Right now, we’re hurting ourselves,” McDonough said.

With the post’s annual Memorial Day Parade, held in conjunction with the Unter Uns and Bavarian Aid Society, now canceled, McDonough said the focus will be on getting flags on veterans’ graves doing as much outside work at the club as possible given the weather.

“We have to put those flags out on veterans’ graves by Memorial Day, that’s for sure,” McDonough said.

For civic groups that don’t have facilities, the shutdown has meant meeting by phone or video and a scramble to reschedule or even cancel events and fundraisers.

Pancake Day delayed

Frank Meloy, president of the Altoona Kiwanis, pointed out the shutdown has forced the postponement of its annual Pancake Day, which was originally scheduled for April 4 and is tentatively slated for June 14. That, along with the end of June blueberry sale, remains in question.

“As things are going we may need to postpone again or cancel it,” Meloy said, pointing out the pancake event is usually held at Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School, where about 1,000 people show up for the club’s largest fundraiser. If the size of gatherings remain limited after the shutdown restrictions are eased, the club would have to talk about what to do.

The club has donated $500 to a local food bank during the crisis, but the shutdown has forced it to curtail its scholarship program this year since it wasn’t able to meet.

The shutdown also canceled the long-running Buddy Club, which from late February to late April gives students at Penn Lincoln and Juniata Gap elementary schools a chance to get together for activities at the high school gym.

It also meant a project he and his wife, Lori, who is also active in the club, do each year in which they go into Irving Elementary School and do a holiday craft project was canceled. This year it was to be for Mother’s Day, with the first graders to have made a picture frame for their mothers.

“A lot of the things we normally do, we just aren’t able to do,” Meloy said, pointing out the mission of Kiwanis is to serve the children of the world.

“Obviously, it’s affected our ability to be out and about in the community,” Fred Miller, vice president of Tyrone Kiwanis, said. Fortunately, the club is in between its largest fundraisers — the annual lasagna dinner held in early March and its August golf tournament — both which fund scholarships.

Miller said the club is still moving forward with awarding its yearly scholarships to Bellwood-Antis and Tyrone students, and it was decided that with the shutdown affecting the community, that the club would also make extra donations in other areas — such as giving to the Northern Blair County Backpack Program that helps Tyrone Area and Bellwood-Antis students.

“We know it is a critical time for them in light of the school closures and coronavirus,” Miller said.

Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.


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