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The Historic Masonic Theatre Keeps the Ghost Light on With the Help of a Paycheck Protection Loan

a shot of an empty theater stage from high up in the theater

On any given day, you can find a ghost light shining brightly on stage at the Historic Masonic Theatre in Clifton Forge. The light is there to shine when the theatre is unoccupied and would otherwise be completely dark. For the months since COVID-19 shut down public gatherings, the light has continued to shine.

The Historic Masonic Theatre has played its own role in keeping the light shining in Clifton Forge for over a century. Constructed in 1905, the Theatre was previously known as The Mason Hall and Opera House. It played host to political speakers, western movies, and vaudeville theatre productions. In its modern form, the Masonic Theatre Foundation has preserved and protected this valuable community asset as a cornerstone of the community, providing a place for arts and culture to thrive in the Alleghany Highlands.

Highlands Community Bank has long recognized the treasure that the Historic Masonic Lodge provides for the community and has continued to work with the Foundation to assure that it thrives. Kathy Bryant and Brandon Caldwell have served on the Board of Directors for years, in addition to providing banking services for the organization.

When COVID-19 halted the Theatre’s events and programming, they sought the help of Highlands Community Bank in applying for a Paycheck Protection Program loan. President, Gayle Hillert, worked directly with the Bank to secure enough money to continue to employ their full-time staff, keeping the metaphorical and physical ghost light on.

“We feel that if we hadn’t had Highlands Community Bank to work with, instead of a larger bank, that we would have gotten lost in the shuffle,” says General Manager Elizabeth Putnam. “We were blessed to have that local service that we can count on.”

Because of the loan they were able to secure with the help of the Bank, they were able to continue to employ their staff despite only holding a few online streaming events. They plan to continue to host virtual events and are exploring the possibility of socially-distanced movie viewings. It’s one of the many ways local businesses have shown creativity and resilience in this difficult time.

“Highlands is truly a driving force in the community,” says Putnam. “They really go above and beyond to help everyone – businesses and people.”

During a normal year, Highlands Community Bank sponsors the Masonic Film Series – a series of free movie showings throughout the year. It’s one of the many ways they work to support a variety of causes in the community.

We are thankful for such a vibrant place for arts and culture to thrive in Clifton Forge and look forward to supporting the Theatre for years to come.

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