Celebrating 300 years

Vote of confidence

In celebration of the Freemasons’ Tercentenary year, the public was invited by the MCF to vote for their favourite charities. John McCrohan, Head of Strategic Development & Special Projects at the MCF, explains the rationale behind this initiative

Tell us about your role…

I support the CEO and Board to bring together the activities of the four legacy charities that were amalgamated into the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) to ensure they continue to meet the needs of both the masonic community and the wider community through our non-masonic grant-making. In January 2011, I started working for the Masonic Samaritan Fund, one of those four legacy charities, as Grants Director and Deputy CEO. I held the post until the consolidation of the MCF in April 2016, when I took on my current role. As well as respecting the legacy of the four charities, it’s also my job to focus on the future and think about how we can do things differently – and better.

What are the Community Awards?

The full name is the MCF Community Awards –Tercentenary Fund. These are 300 grants totalling £3 million that acknowledge the 300-year anniversary of UGLE. The Awards were created in part to raise MCF’s profile within the masonic community, but also externally. This initiative was our first large-scale, public-facing activity, and was designed to let the wider public know about the good work that happens as a result of the generosity of the Freemasons. We typically spend up to £5 million a year supporting UK charities and responding to disasters and emergencies, both here and abroad. But to celebrate the Tercentenary, we wanted to do something in addition to that, which is where the idea for the £3 million Community Awards came from. We also wanted to celebrate the formation of the MCF.

How do the grants work?

They were for either £4,000, £6,000, £15,000 or £25,000, depending on how many votes a charity got. The grants were spread across all of our Provinces, and we allocated either four, six or eight grants to each depending on size. London got 26 because of its size. It was important that the charities we supported were operating, and helping people, locally. We wanted the grants to reassure masons that the MCF is pushing money back to their communities, to see that the money they give doesn’t get swallowed up in a black hole here in London. And, of course, we wanted to show that we apply good grant-making practice and observe good due diligence.

How did you decide who would qualify for a grant?

Firstly, I went to Provinces and said, ‘We’ve got money for you, we’ll be giving grants in your region, but we’d like you to tell us which charities are close to your heart.’ We then asked each Province and Metropolitan Grand Lodge to compile a list of their chosen charities, filtered down to their allocated number. The shortlists came to us and we carried out initial due diligence to make sure charities were eligible, that they weren’t already an active recipient of a grant, and so on. We then confirmed shortlists with the Provinces and Metropolitan Grand Lodge and began contacting charities, inviting them to formally apply for a grant. They still needed to complete an application, though by this stage they were guaranteed at least £4,000 – but could potentially get as much as £25,000 if they got the most votes.

What types of charities were nominated?

We had charities in every sector – from financial hardship, social exclusion and disadvantage through to health and disability, education and employability. We had community centres, initiatives reducing isolation and loneliness for older people and complementary emergency services – things like blood bikes, for example, which take blood supplies around a county.

And how did the general public phase of the vote work?

People voted primarily online – we promoted the vote on our website, and through our social media and masonic contacts. Having spoken to some charities that had already worked with the public on that kind of scale, however, it became clear that to really make the voting work, we needed the charities themselves to lead the promotion – on their own social-media sites and during public events. To do this, we provided them with materials showing masonic iconography and branding that they could use. And, of course, the competitive element of ‘more votes equals a bigger grant’ really spurred them on.

What were the responses like?

We ended up with 177,801 votes, which really blew away our expectations. Almost 160,000 of those votes were made online, with another 18,000 cast at local events. After people voted, there was an optional short survey of just two questions. One asked if the initiative had improved the voter’s opinion of Freemasonry. Some 57% of those who completed the survey – 36,000 people – said that it had improved their perception of Freemasonry. We believe that’s pretty strong evidence that the initiative really worked.

What did you learn from the project?

We’d never done anything like this before so we were all on a massive technological learning curve. We were very exposed, so the pressure was on – we only had six months to develop the project before it went live. We were still testing the voting pages, making sure the images were right and the copy was okay the day before launch. That was a bit stressful. It was all worth it when the charities, and public, told us they didn’t realise we operated on this scale or supported so many people in this way. Given that raising this awareness was one of our key drivers, I think we’ve been really successful. Going forward, we’ll be able to do something like this much more easily because all our building blocks are now in place.

What happens next?

We are going to monitor the projects throughout the 12 months that the grants last, and do a full evaluation at the end. We want to make sure that what we have done with this grant fund has made a real impact. In a year’s time we’ll go back and see what has worked, what hasn’t worked so well and what lessons have been learned. We’ll see how we can improve, if we do something like it again in future.

Find out more - click here.

Around the world

Four charities that have benefited from the Community Awards

Dorset
Social Exclusion and Disability: Veterans in Action
£25,000
Veterans in Action (VIA) helps armed service veterans who have suffered the effects of war or who have found the transition back to civilian life difficult. For the past six years, VIA has been organising walking expeditions that have needed support vehicles – Land Rovers and minibuses – which are now ageing and require maintenance. The funds from the MCF grant will be used to fund a new project called the Veterans Restorations Project, which aims to restore and upgrade the existing vehicles.

Durham
Financial Hardship: Centrepoint North East
£6,000
Centrepoint is the UK’s leading charity working with homeless people aged sixteen to twenty-five. It supports more than 9,000 people a year, 800 of whom are from the North East. The grant will be used for its Rent Deposit Guarantee Scheme (RDGS), which aims to increase the supply of affordable rented accommodation to disadvantaged sixteen- to twenty-five-year-olds and those at risk of homelessness. As part of their acceptance on to RDGS, the person agrees to save with Centrepoint so they can afford their own cash bond as and when they move tenancy. This will enable them to have a secure base from which to build their future.

East Kent
Education and Employability: Romney Resource Centre
£4,000
Romney Resource Centre (RRC) was founded in 1999 and has developed a reputation as a centre of excellence, being the only provider of careers and skills advice, training, education and employment support in Romney Marsh for sixteen- to eighteen-year-olds and adults. Due to significant cutbacks in adult skills at the Skills Funding Agency, there is little further-education funding available for Romney Marsh communities – a critical situation if they are not able to upskill or attain updated qualifications. As a consequence, RRC is now seeking grant-funding support in order to continue its mission.

West Wales
Health and Disability: HUTS
£15,000
Now established for more than two decades, the Help Us To Survive (HUTS) Workshop supports individuals suffering with mental-health issues and learning disabilities across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. The therapeutic arts-based centre currently has more than 100 active members attending its workshop. The MCF award will go towards maintaining a full-time qualified ceramics and silkscreen-printing support worker. They provide support for members to explore creativity, gain confidence and to reduce isolation and deprivation within the rural community.

East Kent Freemasons have given a grant of £31,000 to the Canterbury Cathedral Trust to support the fourth year’s training for a young apprentice stonemason at the Cathedral, which comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation

At a recent ceremony, Provincial Grand Master Geoffrey Dearing, presented the donation to the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Reverend Dr Robert Willis, saying how pleased the fraternity was to be able to continue their support for the scheme.

In reply, the Dean thanked him and all who had contributed saying how much it meant to the Cathedral and to the young apprentices who were just coming into 'these wonderful crafts here at the Cathedral'.

The apprenticeship programme at the Cathedral offers vocational training to young people that is truly life-changing. Seven apprentices are currently employed at Canterbury – four stonemasons, one painter and decorator, one scaffolder and one chef.

Apprentices are recruited through Kent schools, colleges and advertisements in the local press. Coming from varied backgrounds, they are encouraged to explore their creative talents within the inspirational setting of the Cathedral as well as developing the technical and life skills needed for a career in their chosen trade or craft. Whilst these training placements are exceptional opportunities in their own right, the Cathedral also makes every effort to provide subsequent employment for the apprentices.

Heather Newton, the Head of Conservation at the Cathedral, explained how the donation would be used: 'We are incredibly grateful to the Freemasons of East Kent and to the Masonic Charitable Foundation for this continuing support. There are lots of expenses associated with training Craft apprentices.

'We need to cover everything from travelling costs to and from College, to tools, specialist clothing and the time of more experienced Masons who act as trainers and mentors for our young people.'

This latest grant is in addition to the gift of over £300,000 presented to the Cathedral by the Provinces of East and West Kent, Surrey and Sussex, as part of the celebration of the Tercentenary of the founding of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1717. It continues a long and much valued relationship with the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion which dates back over 150 years.

Canterbury Cathedral hosted a Tercentenary Thanksgiving service  in recognition of its long-standing relationship with Freemasonry

More than 1,500 masons and their families came from across the Provinces of East Kent, West Kent, Surrey and Sussex to attend a service in celebration of 300 years of the United Grand Lodge of England.

The event was held on 18 February in the presence of the Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent, the Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Kent and the Lord Mayor of Canterbury, and was led by the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, the Very Reverend Dr Robert Willis.

During his sermon, Dr Willis thanked the Duke of Kent for his long-standing support of the cathedral. He recalled how the Royal Family helped when the cathedral was damaged by bombing during World War II. He also paid tribute to the generous support of the masonic community, whose relationship with the cathedral dates back more than 100 years.

Canterbury Cathedral is currently undergoing the largest restoration project in its history. The interior and exterior are covered in scaffolding to allow the ancient building to be restored to as close to its original condition as possible. A donation of £300,000 from the Freemasons of Kent, Surrey and Sussex has funded repairs to the North West Transept, including new tower pinnacles and a spiral stone staircase.

East Kent Provincial Grand Master Geoffrey Dearing said: ‘The existence of Freemasonry for over 300 years bears witness to the fact that the idea of men from all walks of life coming together to make society a better place is one that has stood the test of time and inspired successive generations.’

Published in UGLE

There’s nothing like a bit of fun and games to keep people entertained and that’s exactly what happened at the 2017 Cornwallis It’s A Knockout Competition

Sponsored by the Cornwallis East Kent Freemasons’ Charity and supported by the KM Charity team, the event was held as part of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary celebrations and to help raise £20,000 for Macmillan Nurses.

The head of East Kent Freemasons, Provincial Grand Master Geoffrey Dearing, opened the event at the Aylesford Bulls Rugby Club on Sunday 4th June, where over 200 people took part in the challenge. They made up a total of 21 teams as they ran, slid and tumbled their way across a number of activities including inflatable obstacles and dragon racing – all in the name of charity!

Over a thousand spectators were also present to cheer on the teams before Cornwallis Charity Trustee, Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master Nick Waller, presented the trophy to the winning team from the Spirit of Rugby Lodge.

John Grumbridge, Chairman of the Cornwallis East Kent Freemasons’ Charity, commented: ‘What a fantastic day seeing all sorts of teams having so much fun in doing something that will ultimately help others. I am sure that one or two people will be aching, but the fundraising achievements will have been greatly worthwhile.’

Please scroll through the gallery at the top to view some of the action from the competition

Spirit of rugby in East Kent

More than 500 rugby fans and masons filled the Margate Winter Gardens to witness the founding of Spirit of Rugby Lodge, No. 9922, formed by a group of more than 50 rugby enthusiasts in East Kent. The lodge was consecrated at a special meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge presided over by PGM Geoffrey Dearing.

APGM Roger Waltham said, ‘Rugby Union has significant parallels with the core values of Freemasonry – in particular, respect, integrity, cooperation, and benevolence and charity.’

Canterbury connection

An exhibition has opened in East Kent that reveals the enduring link between Canterbury Cathedral and local masons. Heather Newton, head of conservation at the cathedral, said, ‘[We are] grateful to the Freemasons for their support over many years. The exhibition allows us to celebrate this and give the public an insight into our craft.’

Roger Odd (above), Past Deputy PGM for East Kent, said, ‘Our connections with the cathedral are not just local, with the national Freemasons’ charity recently donating £22,000 to fund an apprentice stonemason. And to celebrate the Tercentenary, the Freemasons of Kent, Surrey and Sussex have pledged to raise £200,000 towards the restoration of the north-west transept and its pinnacles.’

Read more about the links between Canterbury Cathedral and Freemasonry here.

Freemasons help their local junior football club purchase much needed kit

Staplehurst Monarchs youth football club are sporting smart new soccer kit, after netting a donation of over £1,000 from a local masonic lodge.

The club, which helps around 140 local boys participate in soccer, had been looking for support and funding to provide essential kit. Members of Staplehurst Lodge No. 8145, which meets at the Masonic Hall in Hartley, stepped in to help.

David Noble, Master of the lodge said, 'The boys have been doing so well recently, with the under-9s winning two autumn trophies in successive years and we felt they really deserved our support. We were able to provide home kit and tracksuits for the under-10s team, as well as new jackets for the under-9s. Helping young people build and maintain a healthy interest in sport is so important and we were delighted to help.'

There was a pleasant surprise for David and the lodge when he went to see the team in action this week. He was presented with handwritten thank you letters from the boys, along with a signed team photograph.

Team manager Dan Monahan commented, 'This generous donation from Staplehurst Lodge has made a significant difference to the club. It helps us to keep local children involved in sport by enabling us to provide essential playing kit and equipment. The club is at the heart of sport within our community and we look forward to continuing to work with the lodge in the future by providing access to football for all.'

In the largest gathering of its kind for a decade, over 500 rugby fans and Freemasons filled the Winter Gardens in Margate on Monday 29th February to witness the founding of a new masonic lodge dedicated to the spirit of rugby

Spirit of Rugby Lodge, No. 9922 was formed by a group of over 50 East Kent rugby enthusiasts who recognise and value the strong connections between rugby and Freemasonry.

Medway Rugby Football Club member and founding Master of the lodge, Roger Waltham explained: 'Rugby Union has significant parallels with the core values of Freemasonry – in particular with respect to integrity, cooperation, and of course, benevolence and charity. Thus it’s hardly surprising that many rugby players also find their way into Freemasonry.'

Roger, who is also an Assistant Provincial Grand Master in the Province of East Kent, added, 'These links go back to the very roots of rugby. William Webb Ellis was himself a Freemason.'

The lodge was consecrated at a special meeting of East Kent’s Provincial Grand Lodge, by a team presided over by the head of East Kent Freemasons, Provincial Grand Master Geoffrey Dearing. He said: 'This was a very special occasion. I was absolutely delighted to meet so many rugby fans and Freemasons from across the UK and Europe, who came to join in the celebrations. An event like this shows the increasing value of Freemasonry in everyday life.'

The event was quite a spectacle as observers had the chance to witness the pageantry of Freemasonry combined with the fun and camaraderie of rugby football. The founding members sported especially commissioned rugby caps along with their traditional masonic regalia.

So called ‘special interest’ lodges have become increasingly popular over recent years and are helping Freemasonry to remain relevant and develop as an integral part of modern society. Sporting connections are a natural ally for those formed in a masonic lodge and rugby in particular is leading the way, with several lodges already formed across the UK.

Also present was Colin Broughton, Master of the oldest lodge in East Kent, the Royal Kent Lodge of Antiquity, No. 20.

Following the meeting the attendees shared a celebratory meal and raised over £2,500 for charity.

Among those visiting were representatives of rugby lodges from other part of the UK. Alan Hurdley, from the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding, commented: 'I must congratulate everyone involved in setting up the Spirit Rugby Lodge for making this initiative a reality. It was a wonderful ceremony and most convivial festive board, all conducted in the true spirit of rugby!'

And a spirited success it seems to have been, with prospective members already lining up to join.

Friday, 26 February 2016 07:07

A Life-Line For The Children Of Chernobyl

It seems hard to believe that thirty years have passed since the Chernobyl Disaster shocked the World.


On 26 April 1986 an explosion at at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in The Ukraine released large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere. These spread over much of the western USSR and Europe, even reaching parts of the UK.

The effects on the people and environment were devastating and remain hidden behind a wall of secrecy. In fact the full impact may never be totally revealed.

Those hit worst were the young children in the surrounding areas, forced to grow up and  to live in the highly toxic environment left behind. Even those being born today will suffer from the effects of radiation and social depravation caused by the accident.

Last year we published an article about Herne Bay, East Kent Freemason, Daniel John, whose wife Charlotte runs the local branch of the Chernobyl Children’s Life Line. This is a charity that seeks to help families in Ukraine that were affected by the 1986 nuclear disaster.

Click here to read more about the Chernobyl Children’s Life Line (Herne Bay Link).

In February, Charlotte, Daniel and their youngest son Alfie, returned to Borodyanka in Ukraine loaded with cases full of equipment to distribute over there. Included in their baggage were eight large cases, musical instruments, clothing for hospital staff and a double buggy, much of which had been generously donated by people who were touched by the plight of the people still suffering from the after effects of the disaster.

Click here to read an account of the trip in Daniel and Charlotte’s own words.

With the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster approaching in April, a service will be held at Canterbury Cathedral on Tuesday 26th April 2016, at 7.30pm with Guest Speaker Lt Colonel Igor Pismenskij.

Chernobyl Children’s Life Line invites you to attend the service to mark this significant anniversary. Please RSVP by 7th April 2016 with the number of reserved seats required by post or by using the contact form.

Chernobyl Children’s Life Line 30th Anniversary Service, 33 Station Road, Herne Bay, Kent CT6 5QJ

 

Thursday, 04 February 2016 14:44

Knock Knock - A Grand Surprise For Frank!

There was a big surprise for one member of an East Kent Lodge, when a very special visitor made an unexpected visit to present a long service certificate.

Members of Rochester Castle Lodge No.9260 had gathered at the Stanley Rooms in Chatham on February 3rd to celebrate Frank Holding’s 60 years in Freemasonry. So popular is Frank that the meeting had to be moved from the usual venue, in order to accommodate almost 70 brethren who had booked in for this very special occasion.

The Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Peter Williams, arrived as expected and was admitted into the lodge to deliver Frank’s award. However, a few moments later there was an unexpected knock at the door. A  “Friend you will know” was announced.

To (almost) everyone’s surprise the unexpected guest was non other than Provincial Grand Master, Geoffrey Dearing. Lodge Secretary Roy Goodhew had discreetly arranged this special visitor and had managed to keep it a secret from everyone else in the lodge.

Retired farmer Frank was “dumbfounded and delighted” to receive such an honour and felt spurred on to lead the rest of the meeting. This included Passing Jake Rowan, during which Frank was ably assisted by Jake’s Father Ian.

“We were delighted to make this such a special evening for Frank.” said Roy. “He was our founding Master and has always been a driving force in the lodge. He is a fine ritualist and one of the kindest men you could hope to meet. As an example, rather than accepting a personal gift for his long service, he asked for a pair of commemorative wands to be purchased for the lodge to use.”

On presenting the certificate, Geoffrey Dearing gave a retrospective of Frank’s life and distinguished masonic career, including a look back at World events from 1955, the year he became a Freemason.

Following the meeting and a fine festive board, Frank went home happy and still somewhat pleasantly shocked by the events of the evening. One member remarked “It was a great night. We were all totally surprised when the PGM walked in, everyone’s jaws hit the floor!”

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