The Slavic Benevolent Association of Saint Nikolai Lodge on Point Cadet in East Biloxi had been a gathering place for members of the Croatian community for more than 65 years before Katrina wiped it away.|
Members are committed to rebuilding a place where gatherings, including parties, weddings and anniversary celebrations and receptions, can be held again.
The lodge at 120 Myrtle St. was "set up by our forefathers," said Andrew "FoFo" Gilich, president of the SBASN. "We were tested by the loss of our building, but we came back, and we are going to build it to last the next 100 years."
Immediately after the storm, members met in a local church. In March, members set up a temporary lodge at the corner of Howard Avenue and Main Street, which was previously Kay's Flowers. The temporary site is not big enough to hold the celebrations and events, however, but the group was able to restart its Thursday night dinners and tri-weekly breakfasts.
The SBASN board of trustees and members are devising plans to rebuild a lodge of 10,000 to 12,000 square feet within the next 18 to 24 months. They want the lodge back in the Point Cadet area, but at a new location. The future of the previous property, still owned by the association, is undecided.
"Everybody understood the Point wasn't going to be the same," said David Leckich, SBASN board of trustees member, "but if we could rebuild the lodge there (in the Point Cadet area), it could maintain some sense of heritage."
For the weekly meetings, many members now must commute from other cities instead of walking from their nearby homes or businesses, which also were lost to Katrina. Even with the losses, Gilich said, "Fellowship has been challenged, but strengthened."
With 284 SBASN members and 100 members of the Ladies Auxiliary, the number of current members is comparable to that of pre-Katrina membership. The new lodge, said Leckich, will be a "great place for fellowship, to gather and discuss the old days and the new days."