The beginning of the new year marked the end of a local organization with a long, illustrious history of helping others in need.
The Royal Purple of Canada’s Benalto Lodge #233 officially ceased operating on Dec. 31 after 55 years of existence.
With a limited and aging membership, and workloads and volunteering responsibilities remaining stagnant, the final decision was made with the utmost consideration for all involved, according to the lodge’s Honoured Royal Lady Carol Austin.
“We’ve watched it coming for about the last five years as it dwindled and dwindled,” she said. “It was not an easy decision.”
The Benalto lodge’s five active members at the time of dissolution were between the ages of 75 and 90, and hailed from various area municipalities, including Sylvan Lake, Eckville and Red Deer.
They, along with other members throughout the years, dedicated much time and energy into supporting deaf detection and stuttering, and many community groups, organizations, charities and events.
Behind them, they leave a proud legacy — one Austin is happy to have been a part of since joining 53 years ago.
“We tried to support everything within the community and surrounding area that we could,” she said. “I feel very, very proud of what those ladies put into the organization. They have worked together and done a beautiful job of it.”
Though the work they carried out together was often strenuous and demanding — they often prepared food for hundreds of people at a time — it was always enjoyable, Austin assured.
“Peeling potatoes with 5 or 6 people for 200 — it sounds like a lot of work, but when you’re with a bunch of friends and doing a job, it doesn’t seem like work,” she said. “That is the fellowship that has developed over the last 55 years.”
While the Royal Purple is no longer represented in Benalto, volunteerism in the area remains very much alive and well, Austin feels.
And the future looks bright.
“We have managed to do a lot of the banquets and catering stuff because of the young people coming to help us,” said Austin. “Those kids are beautiful young Canadian citizens. They are very, very helpful, and because of them, we have been able to do the work that we have accomplished the last few years.”
For that reason, Austin said she wouldn’t be surprised to see another Royal Purple group, or a different volunteering-based group, emerge locally in the future.
The Benalto lodge’s last get-together was a Christmas party held in December and attended by its last active members as well as members of other Royal Purple lodges in the area.