Vail Valley’s oldest service organization still rolling
Castle Masonic Lodge's bike sale raises money for toys for kids
Masonic Lodge Toy Drive. To help the Eagle Mason Lodge with its toy drives or bike sales, contact Jon Asper at 970-977-6234.
EAGLE — Some of Santa’s helpers work year round.
The Castle Masonic Lodge, for example, just sold dozens of bicycles the members repaired and refurbished. They use the money for their annual Toy Store, which does not actually sell anything. The Masons collect Christmas toys to families and children who need them — around 1,000 children every year. They also take cash donations.
This year, among those who bought bikes are a Mexican family who buys bikes and sends them to Chihuahua. They bought more than two dozen that they’ll refurbish and provide to kids in Mexico who have almost no other way to get a bike.
Jon Asper has taken the lead on the Masonic Lodge’s Toy Store for more years than anyone can remember, including him.
Asper is an irresistible force of nature and people ask him for all sorts of things, mostly help. Coming up with that help seems to be one of his spiritual gifts.
“They don’t need charity. They just need a little help,” Asper said.
The Masons and Asper don’t ask a lot of questions about why people need help. Folks just do, and that’s enough, Asper said.
“You’d be shocked about who needs help with food or toys but doesn’t want to ask because they used to make good money and now they don’t,” Asper said.
A few years ago the Masons added bicycles to their mix. They take used bikes in pretty good shape, repair them and tune them up, then give them away to kids who need them.
Not just anyone can wander in and get toys, Asper said. They get lists from the Salvation Army and other organizations.
Mostly the kids come from single-parent homes, and the Masons started doing it to help kids whose Christmas might be a little thin.
Century of service
The Castle Masonic Lodge in Eagle is more than 100 years old. It’s Eagle County’s oldest service organization, and its mission has not changed in the last century.
The Masons do their bike sales and Toy Store every year, quietly, or as quietly as they can when they’re collecting tens of thousands of dollars worth of toys, food and cash. When they swing open the doors for their Christmas Toy Store, the Lodge basement looks like Santa’s workshop, only the elves look like these guys.
“We find ways to raise money, so we can give it away,” Asper said. “We do all kinds of other things, too, and almost all of it’s geared toward helping people who need it.”
Some children flounce down those stairs. Some children walk in warily, not sure it’s real. They’re quickly assured that it is, and that they’re welcome there.
“Do you have a bicycle?” the children are invariably asked.
The children look at these guys, again, like it cannot be real.
Wolves were a problem for ranchers when Kip Gates’ great-great-grandfather homesteaded in the area. He doesn’t want the problem to return.