Bentley was built on the backs of volunteers but it appears the number of willing volunteers is dwindling.
The last ever Bentley Elks Lodge No. 318 meeting was held in the Bentley Elks/Legion Hall on December 23, 2013 with six staunch members in attendance.
Even though the membership stood at 17, a good number, some are life members and cannot attend meetings because they have moved away or are unable to drive or have health issues, and a few members chose not to attend regular meetings, leaving a burned out core struggling to stay enthusiastic.
A year earlier in December an impassioned plea for more members for the local Elks club had been given by Lynda Haarstad-Petten. She had then explained that after 64 years in the community, if new members and returning members don’t “pony up” the club would be in jeopardy of folding and that at the regular January 2, 2013 meeting a decision would be made. The club hung on for another year but even after advertising and help from National the tough decision was made to close down as few new active members could be found.
“If, out if all the organizations we donated to, each had just supplied one member, we wouldn’t be facing this problem,” said club secretary Lynda Haarstad-Petten. “They accepted our money but didn’t want to ‘give’ just a few hours a year.”
Treasurer Chris Simpson said there had never been any trouble getting people to help with special events / functions but that they needed regulars for the day-to-day planning and to attend meetings.
“The community might not know what they are missing until after we are gone,” said Simpson.
The Elks were major contributors to the community; helping fund playgrounds, the campground, ball diamonds, school sports and awards, the arena and minor hockey, organizing Remembrance Day bingos and the turkey shoot, 46 years of rodeo, fire department, community van, local museum, Santa’s Breakfast, Christmas hampers, the local hospital, helping individuals and families as well as taking care of the upkeep and maintenance of the meeting hall. This is just to name a few things they were involved in.
When the club first started up they had 76 men and met in the basement of old community hall and later moved to Elks the hall after it was no longer a school and had been renovated.
In 1987 there were 130 paid up members.
At one point they even had their own ball team and hosted curling bonspiels.
The charter issued in 1948 is going to be placed in the local museum after receiving permission from National. All other paraphernalia was returned to National.
There had been good attendance of around 40 at their Christmas meal and meeting with the Royal Purple and guests November 30, 2013.
The sister club, the Bentley Royal Purple Lodge #264, will continue to meet in the hall after getting an agreement to rent the hall monthly from the town. They will continue to serve the community but know it won’t be the same without the Elks.
Before disbanding all remaining Elks funds were dispersed to local groups, clubs, organizations and for help to individuals. The money was raised locally so it was decided it should be dispensed locally.
After 65 years serving Bentley and community, the Bentley Elks club is done.
Some members say they may join other nearby lodges to continue what they believe in.