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A Natchez lodge combines shuffleboard with a sense of community

NATCHEZ — Sunday is shuffleboard day at the Moose Lodge.

Families file into the lodge’s wood-paneled barroom every week with cakes and other sweets, ready to pair into four teams. Though the festivities are scheduled to start at approximately 2 p.m., the members rarely begin sliding discs until 2:30, Susie Short said.

Short, who has been a member of the Moose Lodge for 11 years, said the competition is not all that fierce.

“It doesn’t really matter if we do good or bad,” she said. “We just have fun.”

Short said the reason for coming, rather, is the community.

“It’s like family,” Short said. “What you see here is how we treat everybody.”

The games usually last until approximately 5 p.m., when everyone packs up and goes home.

Behind the little community, however, is a bigger cause, said 3-year member Terri Thomas.

The Natchez Moose Lodge is the 1662th branch of the Loyal Order of the Moose, a national organization that funds Mooseheart and MooseHaven.

Mooseheart is a community for children in need approximately 40 miles west of Chicago. The children’s education and care are funded by proceeds from local branches of the Moose organization, such as the community in Natchez.

Moosehaven, on the other hand, is a retirement community in Orange Park, Fla., where Mooselodge funding provides living spaces, cathedrals, activities and care for the elderly.

All proceeds from the Natchez Moose Lodge’s events or membership fee, Thomas said, go to one of these charities.

Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat

“This is what our fraternity is all about,” Thomas said. “A lot of people think it’s about drinking and cigars but it’s not.”

The lodge has bingo on Tuesdays, and Thursdays, sponsors children for the Special Olympics and hosts charity events for the community, too, Thomas said.

As much as the lodge benefits charity organizations, Anna Burchfield said the community that grew up around the card games and shuffleboard is blessed, too.

Burchfield has been a member of the lodge for more than 30 years and said her husband, Allen, has inducted more than 100 members.

Burchfield said she remembers when the hall was filled every day with people coming and going. Membership is down now, she said, and many of the surrounding lodges have had to close.

But the community that is here, Burchfield believes, is loving and strong.

“I love seeing children here,” she said, looking at the 1-year-old Mavery Allee, who was there with her grandmother, Charlene Burt. “I love everything about this place.”

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