The Sale Creek Lions Club building is scheduled to be torn down March 23, leaving members without a home.
The property was sold to Hamilton County Schools in 2000 for an expansion of the adjacent Sale Creek Middle/High School, although most of the club's members learned of the sale just a few years ago, said Dean Carmack, club president of four years before current President Glenn Uren took over in June.
The demolition of the 72-year-old building will also leave the club without a place to hold the fish fries and barbecues that fund their work in the community, Carmack said.
"[The building's demolition] will stop everything," she said of the club's work in the community, such as providing Christmas gifts to children in North Hamilton County along with food for their families.
Uren is unaware of when the club moved into the building, since he has only been a member for the past seven years. He recalls that it was originally a skating rink before it was purchased by the club.
"It's probably one of the oldest buildings in Sale Creek," Uren said of the clubhouse, which the club regularly allows other groups in the community to use, such as the gospel music held there every Saturday.
He said several club members sold the building in 2000 to Hamilton County Schools in an effort to keep Sale Creek Middle/High School in Sale Creek. System officials said at the time that the school would have to be moved unless it could expand onto the property, which also includes a softball field, said Uren.
The school system has not charged the club to use the building in the time since, he said.
Hamilton County Schools spokesman Tim Hensley said the school system bought the property with an agreement in the purchase that the Lions Club would relocate.
The district's plan for the property is to build a covered area large enough to allow students to work on career and technical education projects, such as constructing "tiny houses."
"The new area will allow them to work on such projects even when weather is not conducive to working outside during a school day," Hensley said in an email. "The area will also have storage for tools used in CTE projects that will provide more room in the program areas inside the school."
On March 9, the club moved its property out of the building. It is currently renting a storage unit to hold items such as refrigerators and cooking equipment used to prepare food to be sold at its fundraisers, the club's sole means of income to fund its work.
In addition to providing for needy families at Christmastime, the club's work in the community includes eyesight testing and treatment when necessary for local kindergartners. Every year, the club pays to send a local high school junior to Girls State, an American Legion Auxiliary Program which educates high school age girls on the basic principles and ideals of government. The club packs fruit baskets for widows during the holidays, and even pays the electric bill for several streetlights in Sale Creek, Carmack said.
The 26-member club is now using the Sale Creek Volunteer Fire Department fire hall for its meetings, but it must be reserved every time and they can't store their cooking equipment or hold fundraisers in the space, she said.
Carmack said they found a piece of property to purchase and planned to move the building there, but the size of the building was too large for the property according to Hamilton County codes and they were denied a variance.
Since then they have been unable to find a suitable piece of property, and it is now too late to have the building moved since the moving company's services must be reserved far in advance, she said.
"There's really nothing we can do about it except sit back and watch them tear it down," said Uren.
Contact Emily Crisman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6508.