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A delegation from the Elks’ governing board is in Bedford this week going over the Elk’s National Home.
Resolutions passed at the fraternal organization this year authorized the board to look at options on what to do with the home. These options include partnering with other organizations, selling the home or closing it.
“Right now, we are looking at all of them,” Eric Mulholland, one of the board members visiting the Home this week, said in a phone interview. Mulholland said that closing the facility would be the last resort.
Mulholland said that they are taking an inventory of Elks memorabilia.
“There is 105 years of stuff,” he said. This includes old scythes that were used to cut hay a century ago.
“We are talking with residents today,” he said.
Mulholland said that the national organization is still funding the home, but not at the level that it did in the past. According to Mulholland, Elks membership, nationally, has dropped from 1.5 million members to 800,000. This means a loss of several hundred thousand dollars to the organization. The national organization reduced the level of funding for the home because it has less money available.
“The home was never, ever designed to be self-sufficient,” he said. “We are not pulling the plug tomorrow.”
Mulholland said that the home is licensed for 140 residents, but currently has 92.
“We would like to maintain 130,” he said.
One of the options Mulholland said the governing board is considering is taking residents who are not Elks. He said the board is looking at the home’s license with the state to see if there is anything in it that would prevent the Elks from doing that.
Mulholland said that the governing board is currently in a discovery mode and that it isn’t yet at the point of making any decisions.
The Elks’ National Home has been in Bedford since 1903. The Elks had purchased the Hotel Bedford building in a bankruptcy sale for $12,500 and opened the home after $30,000 in renovations to the building.
They quickly outgrew this facility and built the current building, completing it in 1916, for a total cost of $450,000. It was dedicated on July 8, 1916, by Warren G. Harding, a Past Exalted Ruler of the Cleveland, Ohio lodge. Harding, then a senator from Ohio, was elected President of the United States in 1920. Additions were built in 1923, 1927 and 1930 and a theater, which is currently home to Little Town Players, was added in 1938.
The Elks National Home is renowned for its annual Christmas light display which draws thousands of visitors during December.
“We’re obviously very concerned about the welfare of the residents and the employees of the Home,” stated Bedford City Manager Charles Kolakowski, about the future of the facility. “The Home is an important element of the town.”
Kolakowski said the Home provides services for residents here, too. “It’s also a very large facility and piece of property,” he said.
City officials were scheduled to meet with representatives from the Elks Home this week to hear more about the facility’s future.
“The number of residents has been declining and there have been rumors for a couple of years,” Kolakowski said about the financial concerns the Home is facing.