The November 2017 death of the Lincoln/Logan Chamber of Commerce got lots of ink in local newspapers and is still a topic of discussion among local residents.
But the Lincoln area also has lost other organizations that improved life for local residents. The demise of those groups, although not as prominent as the chamber of commerce, have also created voids in the community as well. They may not get the morning coffee crowds still buzzing about their passing, but the holes remain unfilled.
Remember the Lincoln Loyal Order of the Moose and its last Lincoln lodge? It’s where Ace Hardware now peddles nuts and bolts, bird and squirrel feed and treats, all manner of tools for the workshop, a wide variety of household items, even a bit of lumber for those who are stuck on Sunday with a weekend project, in need of a board or two and no lumberyard in town open.
Like lodges throughout the country and globe, when it was alive and well the Lincoln Moose organization supported Mooseheart, “a child city” in northern Illinois, and Moosehaven, a residential complex on 60-some acres near Jacksonville, Fla. for senior members of the fraternal organization. But, again like most Moose lodges, Lincoln Moose members actively and aggressively gave their support, both financial and physical, to several local efforts. It also had a female auxiliary, Women of The Moose, which was also a beneficial supporter of local causes.
The Lincoln Moose lodge and WOTM, as the auxiliary was called, lost their headquarters at 2011 N. Kickapoo St. in October 2008. An article in The Courier trumpeted the sad news to the community.
“The Lincoln Moose Lodge is closing. At least temporarily,” the short news article stated. “The lodge … recently lost its lease on that particular building.
“Mel Buse, who answered the phone at the Moose Lodge Tuesday, said the organization will remain intact and members will meet at the American Legion while they search for a new venue.”
End of story. And really the end of the Moose lodge in Lincoln, which didn’t “remain intact.” If memory serves me accurately, I believe Moose International formally merged the Lincoln lodge with its counterpart in Bloomington.
How about the Lincoln Jaycees? Remember those folks who did a lot for the community? Their last home in Lincoln was at 325 S. Chicago St., in a former hardware store adjacent to the railroad tracks that dissect downtown Lincoln.
Like the Lincoln Moose lodge, the Jaycees had become a fixture in the Logan County seat. They seemed to be all about improving the lives of local residents. Arguably, the organization’s most publicized annual event was creating and then hosting a haunted house during the Halloween season. It was held for several years at the Logan County Fairgrounds, but then moved to the Chicago Street address once the Jaycees inhabited that former retail space.
But the Jaycees in Lincoln did more, much more, than try to scare the wits out of people who dropped some cash to tour the haunted house each fall. They made big marks on the benevolent side of things in Lincoln.
The Jaycee membership adopted the Angel Tree project, which provides Christmas gifts to impoverished families during the holiday. They were an integral part each year of Relay for Life, a fundraiser for cancer victims and research. Each holiday season, Jaycees served a free holiday meal for hundreds of local senior citizens.
The final post on the Lincoln Jaycees web page describes the reasons for the club’s death. “Our organization has been serving the community as a local chapter of the Jaycees for the past 60 years,” according to the post. “Over the last several years we have seen membership decline and have been struggling to complete our community projects.
“2014 will be the final year for our organization with the Angel Tree being our final project. We are sad to see it end but are proud to have served the community for so long.
“We would like to thank every past member of our organization, every volunteer, every community member, and every business who has contributed in some way over the past 60 years, which has allowed us to accomplish so many amazing things!”
Earlier in that final year, Jaycee members were adding feathers to their caps because of a prestigious honor. The organization had received notification from the Illinois Junior Chamber International that its nominee for The Outstanding Young Persons of Illinois had been selected to receive that very honor. It was the first time the Lincoln organization had submitted a nominee for the recognition. Only a few years after that, the recipient of the award, Seth Goodman, became Lincoln’s mayor.
Before becoming mayor, Goodman was chairman of the board governing another organization that has departed the local landscape, Main Street Lincoln. That entity was affiliated with a statewide program and received government grants and some local tax money for its operation to preserve the vitality and historical character of Lincoln’s downtown. Main Street Lincoln’s official death notice was also posted on the Internet.
“Effective January 1, 2015, Main Street Lincoln will be permanently closed,” it read. “A number of activities and services previously provided by Main Street Lincoln will continue to be provided by the recently formed Logan County Alliance. …
“The Main Street Lincoln Board of Directors would like to thank the businesses, organizations and residents of the City of Lincoln for their support of our mission throughout the years. It has been our pleasure to serve you!”
Main Street Lincoln’s demise was only a bruise in a fatal collision of Alliance entities that included Main Street, the local tourism bureau and chamber of commerce under one umbrella. Next to collapse was the Logan County Alliance itself, which always billed itself as “doing business as” the Lincoln and Logan County Chamber of Commerce.”
The Alliance, you might recall, instantly disintegrated into thin air with an abrupt announcement by the chamber of commerce that it simply no longer existed. The chamber eventually went the route of the Alliance and Main Street with shuttered doors.
Only the tourism bureau, supported entirely by a local hotel/motel tax and some grants, survives. It now seems to wear more than one hat. An example is the bureau’s sponsorship of Lincoln’s Christmas parade, once a chamber-sponsored event.
In a previous column a few years back, I had already addressed the absence of Lincoln’s League of Women Voters, which no longer exists. The league provided a valuable service with its public candidate forums every time a local election rolled around.
My point is this: The above organizations (with the exception of the Logan County Alliance) made Lincoln a better place to live, a better place to open and successfully manage a new business, a wonderful place to call home and raise a family. All walks of life were served by these groups and organizations.
Sadly, I don’t see much in way of replacements for these groups that once gave Lincoln healthy doses of true community spirit.
Dan Tackett is a retired managing editor of The Courier. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Lincoln Courier: The demise of community organizations in Lincoln leaves a void