As I write this message, I ponder the state of our Valley. We are abundantly blessed. We have an absolutely beautiful facility at which to meet. The next time you are in the building, study it. Study the architecture. Study the wood work by placing your hand on it. Study the craftsmanship. Consider what the walls have seen and heard through the years. Reflect on the men who have been exactly like us – look at their pictures and remember that they walked through the building just as we do today. Our forefathers have provided us with a stunning facility. Consider that much of this work was done by hand and steam shovels. I have seen many people walk into our building and stare at the interior in amazement.
We are blessed in having a tradition of over 100 years in our particular Valley. These traditions are important, and important to us. These traditions are the fiber of Scottish Rite Masonry – Brotherhood, patriotism, service to God, service to our fellow man, the tradition of attending reunions. Maybe the tradition of just being able to say that you are a 32nd degree mason in the Valley of Coudersport. These are the traditions that make us who we are. It’s what sets us apart from other organizations. It’s what makes us great. Again, look at the class pictures from the past. Realize that those men had the same ideals as we do today. Understand that you are bound with them in Brotherhood. I challenge you to look at one of the earliest class pictures, and pick out a particular Brother. Stand in the house portion of the building, and appreciate that that particular man probably stood in the same exact spot on the floor that you are standing on. The ideals of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Valley of Coudersport are timeless.
We are blessed in where we are today. I sincerely hope that you are like me in at least one respect – that some of my most beloved friends come from our Valley. Were it not for my membership in our Valley, I probably would have never known them. Yet, because of my membership, they are counted among my dearest friends. They are indeed my brother. Such a close relationship is hard to find in today’s world. Although we are different, we share values, beliefs and interests. Those who are active in our Valley have become a close-knit group, and that is a real blessing. When our membership total was large, this was not possible.
In looking at the future of our Valley, it is certainly my hope that our traditions continue for another hundred years. It is our duty to ensure that it happens. However, we face many challenges today. Those challenges demand change from us. Membership continues to decline to the point that we now have less than half the members we did just a few short years ago. In addition, the vast majority of our members are over 60 years of age. Our main source of income is membership dues. The bottom line is that our revenue continues to decline, while expenses continue to increase.
Your Trustees have pared down expenses as much as possible. Believe me when I tell you that perks that were historically afforded to your officers are no longer there, and have not been in quite some time. In fact, the opposite is true. Our Secretary and Treasurer used to get paid for their services, and rightly so because they devote much time and expense to the job. They no longer receive any remuneration at all, yet they continue to put in as much time as ever. I encourage you to thank them for their generosity.
Our building requires constant maintenance. Some of it is routine, but some is not. Your trustees have kept up on necessary replacements and improvements. Currently they are soliciting bids to replace the 100-year-old roof on the house. If you look at this roof from the outside, you will quickly understand that this is no easy task. The roof is leaking in many places, and it would be a travesty to lose this historic building because of the lack of maintenance. We expect the roof replacement to cost approximately $150,000. This is our conundrum. We do not have that much money, but we cannot afford not to replace it.
At their September meeting, the Board of Trustees will be making decisions on raising income. I sincerely ask you to pray for the Board as they make difficult decisions, and ask you to support their decisions. In all likelihood, they will be coming out to you, our members, for assistance. Brothers, the fate of our Valley rests on all of us. The goal will be to increase revenues by $60,000 annually. This simply must be done to balance our budget. Our assessment to Supreme Council and the Council of Deliberation is 64,040.00 annually.
We will also be renewing our Capital Funds Campaign. This will be a drive to raise enough money to invest, so we can fund building repairs from the interest. More information will be coming out on this shortly.
Please don’t forget to support our Sportsman’s Bash on October 7th. Brothers, this is of extreme importance, as this event produces in the neighborhood of $50,000 annually. Please sell tickets; please buy tickets; please show up on the 7th and volunteer to help.
I encourage all members to attend the quarterly meeting on September 20th at the Knox Lodge. This is your organization. We will be holding a special election to elect a Treasurer. This is necessary to replace our dear departed Brother, Ill. David L. Gelder, 330.. In addition, stay tuned and I will share details of the decisions that are made.
Brothers, we are indeed abundantly blessed. It our duty to afford that opportunity to future members of the Valley of Coudersport. Thank you in advance for your support, and I look forward to seeing you at the quarterly meeting, a promotional dinner or the October reunion.