The Loyal Order of the Moose put more than $300,000 of updates into its Nisqually Valley Moose Lodge while it was shut down due to COVID-19 related restrictions.
Jim Hurst, a board member for the order, and a civil engineer, headed up the project. He said they had $320,000 saved up for the project and used the shutdown as an impetus for its start.
“It was a little earlier than we thought, but we went for it,” Hurst said in an interview with the Nisqually Valley News. “We spent every dollar. We were literally at zero.”
The Loyal Order of the Moose is rebranding to “One Moose” on May 1, when the men’s order and the women’s auxiliary will be united under one banner. Hurst will be the president of this reformed order.
Ed Taylor, another board member, said the project was expansive in scope.
“The lodge was completely gutted,” Taylor said. “All that was left was the tin on the outside and the (support) posts. We redid the floors, the walls, the bar — everything’s new.”
Yet, the project wasn’t just cosmetic.
“The plumbing systems were kind of shot and the electrical systems were really shot, and not to code by any means,” Hurst said. “We didn’t have heating and cooling in each of the zones in the building. We basically stripped her to her bones, insulated it ... and just redid everything.”
The HVAC system amounted to $50,000, the electrical work came in around $70,000 and the plumbing ended up costing a modest $20,000 thanks to order members who stepped up and lent their expertise and labor.
Hurst said he is particularly excited about the new HVAC system.
“If one room fills up with people for a big community event we can actually cool that room, or whatever we need to do, individually. We didn’t have that capability before,” Hurst said.
The lodge consists of two pole barns from the 50s and 60s that were bolted together. In years past, there was a leak at the seam, which completely rotted out the bottom of the support post on the newer side of the building.
“You could literally stick a screwdriver clear through it,” Hurst said. “So the only thing holding up half of the center of the (new) building were bolts into the old post.”
Hurst said there were other structural problems as well, resulting from previous work done on the building where members constructed windows, but cut supports to do so. These structural challenges cost the order upwards of $60,000.
One primary focus of the project was the lodge’s kitchen, which cost the order about $80,000.
“The kitchen was probably the biggest expenditure,” Hurst said.
Among the updates to the kitchen were a new hood system, an added fryer, a new Roast-N-Hold oven and a rebuilt boiler and flattop.
According to Hurst, the Roast-N-Hold oven is a boon for the organization.
“Their design for poultry and beef is super cool,” he said. “You can put a prime rib in there and it will cook it to the proper temperature and then hold it … for like hours and hours. In fact, they recommend cooking it the day before and letting it hold overnight before you serve it.”
And the oven’s bounty turned out to be mouthwatering.
“So we’ve done that a couple times and it was crazy tender,” Hurst said. “So it was like, ‘Oh that’s how those fancy restaurants do it.’”
Larry Backstrom, owner of Olympic Food Equipment Sales, designed the kitchen, separating the prep area from the cook line and the serving section.
The remaining expenditures were spent on the lodge’s interior reconstruction and other odds and ends that needed updating.
Along one side of the building’s Lodge Room, for instance, the order removed an old office and relocated the stage to the room’s corner, ensuring that more people can fit comfortably in the space. An AV booth to control all the building’s audio and visual capabilities was also added.
The lodge’s facelift from a dark wood, barn-like atmosphere to that of a clean, modern community hall was in part to attract new members, Hurst said.
“We want to take the dark, dingy, drinking club vibe away from the lodge and make it light and bright, where more young people would want to come, because the old farts are dying out,” he said. “We want families to come and use our facilities, and we would make sure that they are safe there.”
Moose members raised the money through absorbing the Olympia lodge years ago, by Monday’s weekly bingo nights and by charging community groups for using the space. Add some effective money management by Administrator Fred McHenry, and the members were well on their way to making all the lodge’s needed changes.
But the project is incomplete. There is still one wall in the Lodge Room that needs to be reinforced, and the order hopes to install a wide rolling door that opens out onto a covered patio for dancing and the like.
“To me, the Moose Lodge is a great way to share in the community, to feel part of the community,” Hurst said. “It has provided me a place where I can feel part of the community, to feel like I’m contributing. To me, it’s not so much about getting a gift as getting a gift. We get to give a lot here. We’ve had people break down in tears of gratitude for what we do. Those little moments where we get to see that full gratitude … it’s like, ‘OK, I’m in.’”
Taylor shared these sentiments, adding that a few of Moose International’s projects were a driving force for him. Specifically, the Mooseheart outreach, where at-risk children are sheltered, educated and provided for; and Moosehaven, where seniors (those of whom have been members for 15 years or more) can retire in comfort.
“For me, it’s about the kids at Mooseheart and the seniors at Moosehaven,” Taylor said. “I would honestly not be a member of this organization if it wasn’t for what we do for them and the community. One of our biggest goals is to be the heart of the community. That’s the reason I’m here. I want to give back. It’s a purposeful thing for my life.”
Ultimately, though, the lodge would never have been able to receive the facelift that will facilitate the Yelm chapter’s work for years to come without the dedication of its hard-working members, Taylor said.
“On top of the money we spent, we saved thousands of dollars due to our members’ contributions,” he said. “This would have been a $600,000 dollar project — no, more than that. We probably would have hit $700,000. Our members stepped up and did a lot of work. Everybody came together. We saved huge because of them. That’s just what the Moose does.”