Bedford, VA - Things are looking up at the Elks National Home in Bedford.
To keep its doors open, the 'members only' retirement home decided to allow non-members to live there.
The Elks home currently has 94 residents and they're expecting to gain several more in the upcoming months.
Executive Director Pamela Mutter says it was a tough decision to open up the home, but it was the right thing to do.
"[The] decision to allow non-Elk members was huge. It was huge, and it was a difficult decision for our board members to make. But, it was one that needed to be made for survival," Mutter said.
Mutter says the Elks Home is surviving, and with each month that passes and with each resident they welcome, the home gets closer to thriving.
"Once they changed the rules, I was the first man in line," said Norman Pedigow, the first non-member resident.
Since last year, the home has added 11 non-Elks residents to its roster.
"I'm the very first one that was not an Elk that they let in the home," Pedigow said.
Pedigow had his eye on the Elk's retirement life for a couple years and was thrilled when the member barrier was broken.
The home has made other changes as well.
"We dropped all of our up-front fees. We do have an entrance fee that is very nominal for non-Elks, and our Elk members pay no entrance fee at all," Mutter said.
Life at the home has suited some non-members so well, many non-members say they have decided to become Elks after all.
"What we're finding is that some of our people are coming in not Elks and quickly becoming, joining the local lodge," Mutter said.
"Decided that since I was here, and the Elks were taking good care of me, I might as well join," Pedigow explained.