The Freeport Masonic Temple is looking to renovate its nearly century-old building but it needs assistance.
Bill Leser is the chairperson of the fundraising committee for the temple. He said last year’s winter was not kind to the building, specifically, the top.
“We've actually got five roofs here. The worst one is the auditorium, which has to be fixed now," he explained. "So that's scheduled to be repaired by Labor Day.”
Leser said the others also need replacing. He admitted this hasn’t been done in 30 years.
He said it's going to take about $180,000 to repair the roofs. Leser also acknowledged that a number of repairs, inside the building, need to be done. He said since they are updating the roofs they might as well update other things.
“Well, let's look at getting air conditioning and putting in HVAC. And you know what, as long as we're looking at putting in HVAC, since we got a new roof, let's look at updating all the heating and cooling for the building and get rid of the boiler," he suggested.
He said using a boiler comes with an $8,000 monthly gas bill.
Leser shared that COVID-19 has made it hard to make any updates.
“We've got no income coming in right now. So, we're looking at making this thing more accessible to the public. It used to be a centerpiece," Leser said.
Leser disclosed that membership for the group has dropped dramatically over the years.
“Unfortunately, back in the early 2000s, we had close to 5000 members." he said. "At one time, there were over 7000 members. We're down to about 750 people. People don't join nowadays like they used to.”
Leser mentioned that the Freemasons are working on raising money from a variety of different sources.
He said they are also looking to make it a historic building so they can get those types of grants but this could pose a problem.
“But if it's a historic place, I may be stuck with steam heat and an $8,000 gas bill," he explained.
He said they are working through several ways to get funds. This includes a nationwide GoFundMe program. For now, he suggested that people should send donations to the temple at 305 W. Stephenson St. in Freeport. Checks must be made out to the Freeport Masonic Temple.
- Yvonne Boose is a 2020 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.