ALBION — It may seem out of place in the Albion Masonic Lodge, but the Lions Club banner has been hanging prominently on one of the walls since January.
“No one has ever questioned it,” Gary Antinore, a Mason, said about the banner. “It goes along with the brotherly love.”
The Masonic Lodge is now the Lions Club’s home as well. The Lions used to meet every other week at the Apollo Restaurant, but after it closed in January, the Lions needed a new location. The timing was bad. The district governor was in town, right after the Apollo closed. Longtime Lion John Keding and about 25 other people crammed into his house to host the district governor.
But the Lions wanted another spot where they could gather every other Tuesday, to share a meal and discuss their upcoming fundraisers and community projects.
Don Stirk, a Mason, reached out to Keding, offering space for the Lions at the Masonic Lodge. The Masons prepare meals and serve the Lions. Stirk sees it as a way to better utilize the building on Platt Street, bringing in some money for the Masons and also helping a fellow service organization.
Both clubs have a fraction of the membership they had a few decades ago. There are only 16 to 18 members of the Lions Club, with maybe 10 active members.
“It’s hard to get young people to join,” said Keding, 76, the owner of car repair shop in Albion. “They give you a dozen reasons why they can’t.”
Keding joined 44 years ago.
Dennis Smith joined the Lions on the mid-’80s when the club had at least 50 members. Smith also is in the Masonic Lodge, which still has about 75 members. It had 240 when Smith joined in 1968, and he said it once had 400 members “just in Albion.” He also is a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, which recently merged with Medina.
Despite struggling with membership, the organizations remain committed to funding scholarships and other service projects, Smith and Keding said. But they would welcome an infusion of new members.
They realize young adults, those time-crunched with careers and raising children, may find it difficult to commit to serving a club. Those members would still be accepted and could serve in a reduced capacity.
“Our motto is, ‘Families first and then the Lodge,’” Antinore said. “The younger guys can’t be as busy with the Lodge.”
Antinore, 68, joined the Masons seven years ago after he retired from Kodak. Antinore used to work three shifts for the Rochester company. He said he couldn’t have joined the Masons while he was working.
But now he sees the Lodge and other service organizations as a way for recently retired residents to stay active and build friendships.
“It’s been very fulfilling,” he said. “I like the organization and what it does for the community.”
With shrinking numbers, the clubs have re-evaluated some fundraisers, eliminating ones that weren’t making money. The Lions in February ceased serving spaghetti dinners from the American Legion. The Club will continue its sausage booth at the Strawberry Festival in June and is selling roses for Mother’s Day.
The Knights of Columbus stopped bingo a few years ago and has sold its building to the Genesee-Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. The Knights are down to about 10 to 15 members, said Bob Galbreath, a Knight and a Lion. He doesn’t want to accept that today’s young adults have schedules that are too full for service clubs.
“People say they haven’t got time to join but everyone here over the years has found time,” Galbreath said.