BOISE — The Shriners have been in Boise for about a century. It's a group with a long history that was built on the foundation of the Shriners hospital.
The Shriners grew to large numbers thanks to the civic engagement that was associated with World War II, but those numbers have been in decline since the 1970s.
Now, 65 percent of the members at the El Korah Shrine in Boise are 65-years or older. So in an effort to increase their enrollment and bridge the generation gap, the Shriners provide a venue for bands at Treefort.
"We have a phenomenal story to tell. We just haven’t been very good at telling that story. We should be shouting our stories from the rooftops," said Potentate Garland A. Risner. "We have helped 1.3 million children in almost 100 years. The first hospital opened in Shreveport Louisiana in 1922.”
Risner said they are seeing a resurgence in younger people who are joining the Shriners; however, he contributes that more to the tradition of the Shriners and how the hospital helps so many children across the country. But he said events like Treefort certainly help the Shriners share their story.
"This building is full of people every night for the Treefort festival and we are glad to have the folks here," said Risner.
Risner said he doesn't think civic engagement is dying in our country. Instead, he feels that people are finding new ways to dedicate their time and energy towards helping others.
He also noted that membership to the Shriners is a process and he believes that deters some people from joining.