‘It’s heartbreaking’: Moose Lodge hosts final meal before closing doors

Moose Lodge employee Caroline Britain prepares a lunch for a client at Moose Lodge Wellness Centre on Friday, July 28. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

After more than two years and hundreds of meals, Moose Lodge Wellness Centre has officially closed its doors.

Staff and volunteers dished up the final meal on Thursday—burgers, soup, macaroni, yogurt and coleslaw, with cake for dessert—before closing down for the last time.

Moose Lodge supervisor Garth Propser said Moose Lodge meant a lot to those who used it. He’s worried about what will happen to their clients when the doors close for good.

“This is a much-needed facility, a much-needed service, and it is very appreciated by everyone who comes here,” Prosper said during a break in the action.

“Two years later, it’s made a big difference. Everyone out here has got a story.”

Named after former junior hockey player James “Moose” Sewap, Moose Lodge served around 320 meals a day to Prince Albert residents without homes. It operated five-days a week out of the Union Centre downtown, and offered services for residents trying to overcome addictions, cure mental health issues, or find a way off the street and into a permanent home.

It also spawned the creation of the Moose Caboose, a heated van that travelled the streets of Prince Albert during cold winter nights handing out coats and blankets.

Prosper said he’s not sure what will happen to those people now. He’s especially concerned for their elderly clients, who he said are more vulnerable than most.

“When some of the clients heard about the closure, the big question that everyone asked was ‘what are we supposed to do now?’ Nobody knows,” Prosper said. “That’s heartbreaking.”

While clients benefited from the services, Moose Lodge became known for something else: community. Prosper describe the building as “grand-central” for residents who wanted someone to talk to or a place to relax for morning coffee.

“We’re one big support group for a lot of them, where everywhere else they get told no,” he said.

“The clients don’t have anything, but when they’re shown somebody actually gives a hoot about them, they keep coming back,” volunteer Terry Thorsen added.

Like most clients, Thorsen has been coming to Moose Lodge almost since it opened. He originally stopped by to see staff members who he knew, but was convinced to stay and volunteer.

He said it’s one of the best decisions he’s ever made, and always tries to come back, even though medical issues have made it harder.

“It’s going to be sad to see it go,” Thorsen said during a break. “It helps the community, first of all. Second of all, it helps the people who work here and volunteer here. There’s actually quite a bit of volunteering. It’s good for the soul and good for the spirit.”

Thorsen credited the staff for creating a welcoming and respectful environment that kept people coming back. He’s also upset someone didn’t step up with the case to keep the doors open.

Moose Lodge would require $165,000 to operate as a daytime shelter until October. To survive year-round, it would require around $345,000. PAGC Urban Services launched the Moose Lodge shelter in 2001.

“It’s really sad that nobody’s backing us up with financial support or anything like that,” Thorsen said. “It’s really sad that they’d let this go and let the doors close.”

Despite his concerns, Thorsen is confident something will pop up to take Moose Lodge’s place.

“It’s in Creator’s hands,” he said. “A lot of us are firm believers in the power of prayer and Creator helping us out. In some weird way or another, this place is going to be reopened.”

–with files from Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald