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Moose members share purpose, camaraderie

Four generations of a River Falls family with ties to the local Moose organization recently toured a Moose-supported community for children in Illinois. The four-generational family members are: front, five-year-old Riley DuBois, who attends the River Falls Public Montessori School; back, from left: Riley's mother Crystal DuBois; Crystal's grandmother, Natalie Kusilek; and Natalie's daughter, Laurie Hansen. Hansen is a professional photographer in River Falls who operates Picture Perfect Studios.

If you have a household with kids, Laurie Hansen said joining the Moose organization in River Falls is a family-friendly gesture.

"We have things to do that are suitable for families -- picnics, games, dinners, Sunday brunches, Easter Egg hunts, Halloween costume parties, I do Santa pictures in December -- it's really like a fraternity, like belonging to a big family with lots of close connections in a very relaxed atmosphere," said Hansen.

She should know since she and her husband Al have been Moose members for 15 years. And growing up, Hansen's parents, Norman and Natalie Kusilek, were long-time members of the River Falls Moose.

Duane Vorwald has been a local Moose member since 1982. He now heads up the River Falls Moose Family Center as its governor.

However, local membership has declined steadily over the decades.

When Vorwald started with the Moose, there were over 400 members -- roughly four times the number there are today.

Vorwald and Hansen attribute the decline to busier lifestyles, with both parents working now and being more involved with their kids in school sports and various other activities.

Woman like Hansen can join the Moose, but they go by a different name: Women of the Moose.

Regardless of gender, men and women, along with children, come together for a wide range of Moose-sponsored events and activities.

Vorwald said the Moose raise money for local groups who participate in the Moose's monthly Sunday pancake breakfasts.

These are held the first Sunday of the month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Moose Lodge, 620 N. Clark St.

The Sunday menu is pancakes, French toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, ham, sausage, potatoes, coffee, juice and milk. Cost is $8 but kids five and younger get in free.

Groups -- Scouts, Masons, Lions, 4-Hers, even individual benefits -- that partner with the Moose sell pancake breakfast tickets, then share proceeds.

Breakfast attendance, has reached 300.

Hansen said that in 1999, her then-teenage son DJ Simonson used a Moose Lodge pancake breakfast as a fundraiser for a People-to-People Student Ambassador trip he was about to take to Australia.

The River Falls Moose also make money by leasing its lodge for Christmas parties, weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and graduation parties -- any kind of big social gathering. Moose members get a sizable discount to lease the lodge.

Members also meet regularly, especially the board of directors, and contribute to a pot called an Endowment Fund. This fund goes to support Mooseheart, a youth community in Illinois.

Questions about the Moose or about joining can be answered by calling DuaneVorwald at 715-821-1292; Jim Vorwald (past Moose governor and now a trustee) at 715-248-7861; or Hansen at 715-821-1306.

For the complete story, please see the Jan. 3 print edition of the River Falls Journal.