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April 12, 2018

Marshall Ruritans have big plans for new social hall

Photo/Don Del Rosso
Marshall Ruritan Club President Jan Sicklel says more prospective members recently have come through the doors of the rebuilt hall on Salem Avenue.
Heavy snow crushed most of the old hall in January 2016.
The old hall was a good hall, but it was dated. This is better than ever.
— Marshall Ruritan Club President Jan Sickel
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The collapse of the Marshall Ruritan hall two years ago after a huge snowstorm stunned him.

“I heard about it when it happened” Jan. 22, 2016, club Secretary Randy Barger recalls. “But it didn’t set in until I had seen the first picture. It was a shock and a sadness all at the same time.

“We all felt the pain. It was hard to take.”

But Mr. Barger and other club members never lost hope.

“We could have collected the (insurance) money and become a roaming club” that would meet at church social halls and the like, recalls the club’s previous president. “That just wasn’t an option in my head. This place brought a lot of happiness to the town.”

Persistence, a $738,000 check from State Farm Insurance and $50,000 in community donations allowed the service organization to rebuild the social hall at 8400 Salem Ave.

To help mark completion of the new one-story, 5,700-square-foot building, the Ruritans will host a Saturday, May 26, dance. A DJ will provide music.

“We’re going to bring it back and see what happens,” says Mr. Barger, a Navy Credit Union systems engineer in Winchester. “The popularity of it kind of went away.”

The club also soon expects to host an open house to show off the place.

In September, the club plans to resume its twice-a-year raffles — its two biggest annual fundraisers. Each clears about $6,000.

Club board member Kenny Embrey spoke of the snowstorm as kind of a blessing in disguise.

“As the old saying goes, when the good Lord closes one door, he opens another. That’s what he did to us,” says Mr. Embrey, who owns a Marshall towing service.

Club President Jan Sickel agrees.

“The old hall was a good hall but it was dated,” admits Mr. Sickel, a Markham farmer and retired Arlington County homicide detective. “This is better than ever. If there’s a good thing to happen out of this, we found from the community how much this building meant to them.”

“They all asked about it,” Mr. Barger adds. “They all cared about it.”

About $600,000 of the State Farm insurance payment went toward rebuilding the club, according to general contractor Miller Brothers Inc. of Marshall.

For tax purposes, the county valued the building at $265,800.

About $138,000 of insurance money covered equipment and furniture and the loss of revenue because of cancelled fundraisers.

The club board believes the new hall will help boost membership.

“We’re hoping people coming by will stop in to see what’s going on and will join,” Mr. Sickel says.

In a small way, the new building already has had that effect, according to Mr. Barger.

Typically, the club has added four or five members annually, he said.

“The last meeting I had six applications, and it’s still growing.”

Full and associate annual memberships cost $125 and $44, respectively. The club has 27 full and six associate members.

Workers last summer began construction of the new social hall and largely completed it by year’s end. (A 1,900-square-foot portion of the 36-year-old building — including restrooms, the kitchen and storage, and the north and west walls — survived the storm.)

The club plans to market the hall for community and other events. It charges $500 per day for room, plus $150 for use of the kitchen. The club also requires a $500 security deposit.

“We’re not in it for the money,” Mr. Sickel says. “We’re in it to pay our bills and be a community service, which is what Ruritan is all about.”
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