By Andru McCracken

Measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 mean the McBride Elks have lost their main source of income: Pioneer Days.

Member Al Birnie said that the club was lucky to have some money in the bank because of an unusually profitable festival two years ago.

“Fortunately we made double the money we usually make because there was a reunion in town. It has kept us going for this year, but the money is going to run out,” he said. “That’s where we make the money for the year to run the hall.”

Birnie said that the club is in deep financial trouble. They did have the hall up for sale recently, but there was little interest. Birnie said there has been some interest in leasing the facility, but nothing is for sure.

Eighty percent of the club’s revenue (excluding gaming grants) goes towards upkeep of the hall.

The Elks received $10,000 from the Regional District of Fraser Fort George’s grant in aid program, but that money won’t last long. Worse, the building’s heating system is leaking fuel from a hard to access underground fuel tank.

Head of the local chapter, Exalted Ruler Eugene Runtz said that the funds will get them to the end of the summer – when they usually hold Pioneer Days – but not further.

He said that conversations have included the possibility of folding the club, but the membership is dedicated to keeping it running. Sixteen members attended a remote emergency meeting to determine what happens next.

Runtz said that a committee was struck to look into solutions.

Birnie said that the Elks’ sister club, the Royal Purple, may contribute some of their savings to keep the bills paid.

“At best that might last another year,” said Birnie.

The Elks is a community service group and one of the services it provides is redistributing money from the Province’s gaming grant.

“The Elks and Royal purple each get $10,000 from the gaming branch year,” said Birnie. The money goes to schools, sports organizations and the local food bank.