The building housing the Green Valley Masonic Lodge could be up for sale soon, but one of its leaders says the service organization will remain intact despite a drastic drop in membership.
Bob Garn, treasurer for the 60-member club, said they will vote in October on whether to sell the 5,000-square-foot building at 18090 S. La Cañada Drive in Sahuarita.
Garn said the club had about 200 members when it doubled the size of the building 15 years ago.
“We can’t logically maintain that amount of square footage with that few members,” he said, adding that the group is financially sound but is spending $12,000 to $15,000 a year more than it’s taking in. He said the sale would likely be contingent on the buyer allowing the club to continue to meet there.
“We are still a viable organization,” Garn said, “but we need some help maintaining that building.”
The lodge started out as the Acacia Club of Green Valley in the late 1960s, a social club for Masons. The lodge was formed in 1972. The Masons, which limit membership to men, moved to its current location in the 1970s. Females have a counterpart in the Order of the Eastern Star, which also allows men to join.
Garn said the group’s purpose is “making good men better,” the Mason’s motto. Last year, the club donated bicycles and electronic readers to schools and provided four $500 scholarships to college-bound students.
“For a small lodge, we do a lot,” Garn said.
But membership locally, nationally and internationally has been in a free-fall for years.
According to the group, national membership peaked at 4.1 million in 1959. In 2017, there were just under 1.1 million members, the lowest point since 1924, when statistics were first kept.
Membership in Arizona was 6,828 in 2017, about 200 fewer than a year earlier, according to the organization's statistics.
Until about five years ago, members weren’t allowed to approach somebody for membership. That has changed, and efforts are underway worldwide to get younger men interested. But it’s not happening locally, Garn said. He said the average age of a member here is 70.
He said a changing dynamic among families, including needing two incomes to make ends meet, has left little free time for civic organizations. It’s the same challenge faced by similar organizations, with hundreds of chapters of civic groups closing across the country. Garn said it could happen here, though there has been no talk of it.
“We have a lot of older members and if we don’t replace those older members, it’s going to close,” he said of the lodge. “I suppose if there isn’t a dramatic change this lodge will disappear in five or six years, maybe seven.”