While spring may be the traditional time for change, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) is continually looking for ways to refine the way it works for the benefit of supporters and beneficiaries, according to Chief Executive David Innes
Over recent months, MCF staff, trustees and representatives from the masonic community have been working to create a strategy for the next five years. We have a clear vision for the future, which will see us enhance our support and services, improve our ways of working and raise our profile.
Just as important as our plans is the manner in which we hope to deliver them. We have developed three core values to guide us. Firstly, being responsive to need; to listen and provide appropriate support to the communities with which we work. Secondly, making a difference; to be compassionate and dedicated to changing people’s lives in ways that have a positive impact. Thirdly, striving for excellence; to always work in a professional and innovative way to provide the best possible support to our beneficiaries and donors.
Another development is our new Charity Grants programme, designed to fund projects covering specific areas of need in society and to enable charities to more easily identify whether they are eligible for support. The programme will also see us increasing our funding for charities that need support with day-to-day running costs.
Around 85 per cent of charities in England and Wales have incomes below £500,000, and for these, a small grant for day-to-day costs can have a big impact.
‘Thanks to you, thousands of masonic families can now afford to pay their bills and play an active role in society’
HELP IS AT HAND
None of these innovations and improvements would be possible without your ongoing support. We have already seen the launch of five more Festival appeals in support of our work; I have had the privilege of attending many of these launches and have been inspired by the interest and enthusiasm from everyone I have met in the Provinces.
Thanks to you, thousands of masonic families can now afford to pay their bills and play an active role in society, and others can access life-saving treatment or quality care services.
As always, if you need support, or know of somebody who does, please do not hesitate to contact us on our enquiry line (0800 035 60 90). If we are unable to assist you directly, we will always direct you towards other organisations that may be able to help.
I hope that the spring of 2018 is a positive time for you and your families, and wish you all the very best for the rest of the year.
Grand Masters from more than 100 foreign Grand Lodges brought gifts from around the world to Freemasons’ Hall for the Tercentenary celebrations
The Tercentenary is over but not forgotten. When you visit the Library and Museum there is a colourful reminder in a display of some of the many gifts presented by overseas Grand Lodges.
A set of Russian dolls depicting the Rulers and the Grand Secretary caught the sense of fun and celebration on the day. In a very different vein, an antique collecting box from the combined Scandinavian Grand Lodges contained a scroll showing that every member had made a donation to the Masonic Charitable Foundation (£44,500 in all), emphasising the spirit of generosity that was present throughout the events.
In all, more than 100 Grand Masters from across the world made presentations, with the Library and Museum of Freemasonry team managing to have all their gifts unwrapped, listed and on display by the time the Grand Master arrived to view them after the welcome ceremony.
A $50,000 (£17,566) contribution has come from the Masonic Charitable Foundation to help needy families in remote areas of Fiji in the South West Pacific area of lodges
UGLE Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton, on a Tercentenary visit to the island, made the announcement. He was accompanied by Grand Director of Ceremonies Oliver Lodge.
‘It is not the first donation we have made in this part of the world. Following Tropical Cyclone Winston in 2016, Freemasons gave $65,000 (£22,825), some of which came from Freemasons here, some from the charity foundation in London,’ said David.
South West Pacific Grand Inspector and Lodge of Fiji member Ross McDonald added, ‘Locally, we will identify where the need is and normally we give direct to that need, so we are certain that we are giving the best value for every dollar that goes in.’
Steve Axon, chairman of the riding centre trustees, said, ‘The £15,000 will be spent on 3,000 bales of hay, a year’s feed for our 29 horses and ponies.’
The final event of the Cambridgeshire Tercentenary year was a dinner hosted by Provincial Grand Master William Dastur, as 300 diners gathered at Churchill College in Cambridge
Representatives of the four charities selected for the Masonic Charitable Foundation Community Awards were in attendance as guests of honour, together with local dignitaries.
The PGM presented the Community Awards certificates for £25,000 to Cam Sight, £15,000 to Arthur Rank Hospice Charity, £6,000 to Maggie’s Wallace Centre and £4,000 to Stars Cambridgeshire Children’s Bereavement Support Service. Entertainment on the night was provided by Covent Garden buskers ZHL Strings.
The Masonic Charitable Foundation has given a grant of £31,000 to the Canterbury Cathedral Trust to support training for a young stonemasonry apprentice
East Kent PGM Geoffrey Dearing presented a cheque to the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Reverend Dr Robert Willis. Canterbury has seven apprentices – four stonemasons, a painter/decorator, scaffolder and chef.
It is engraved: ‘The Province of Yorkshire, West Riding and the Masonic Charitable Foundation supported restoration work in the Cathedral to mark 300 years of Freemasonry 1717-2017.’
Sean Mitchell-England, aged 33, who lives in Plymouth, is a young member of St. Stephen’s Lodge No. 9147 meeting across the Tamar Bridge in Saltash, Cornwall. Sean has been struggling with severe health issues over the last few years which rapidly progressed into exacerbated hyper mobility and fibromyalgia. In this extremely short space of time, Sean has gone from being a fit and healthy young man to literally being bed ridden due to the severe pain he has to endure each day.
Following the relentless dedication of John Pritchard, a local visiting volunteer on behalf of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), the process for acquiring the funds from the MCF for the chair has been relatively straightforward. What has been difficult and quite a complicated process was to have the chair custom built to suit Sean’s specific needs. The chair, having cost almost £4,000, will without any shadow of doubt be an absolute life changer for Sean. Having already taken delivery of it and with a few days of practice, it’s already making a massive impact with his mobility.
Sean said: 'I cannot thank John Pritchard enough for his persistence in assisting me with my claim; he has worked tirelessly to aid me and my family. Now I have this marvellous chair it will enable my wife Dominique and my two young daughters Ophelia and Talulah the added benefit of quality family time with me. I now have the means of unhindered mobility.
'Without the help and assistance of the Masonic Charitable Foundation I honestly have no idea what we would have done. Having struggled to work due to my fatigue and illness my daily living costs spiralled out of all control and as the sole earner in the family with a new born baby, I soon became unable to repay my mounting debts. At first depression set in followed by additional health issues together with further incurred costs and additional debt, which resulted in my embarrassment of having to declare myself bankrupt. I was at the lowest point of my life and I honestly knew of no other options. Things also became so bad we had to sell our personal items of any real value just to live. At that time, we thought we had no one to help us, not even family members could assist, and we ended up being given care parcels by the local authorities.'
Hearing Sean and his family’s plight, David Sands, the Worshipful Master of St. Stephens Lodge, stepped in to offer some advice. Following a few meetings together with John Pritchard, along with a few essential emails and phone conversations, it wasn’t long before the Masonic Charitable Foundation offered assistance. The Masonic Charitable Foundation have also helped Sean with his application for his Personal Independence Payment, which he was unable to complete himself due to chronic fatigue and pain he suffered.
John Pritchard commented: 'On meeting Sean it was obvious to see he and his young family were in desperate need of help. Not only was Sean unwell but he was completely embarrassed by his situation and I knew we would do everything to assist. Having made the initial enquiry with the MCF it wasn’t long before a plan of action was in place. Following the initial assessment it was clear that funds were needed urgently, which included food and even school uniforms for the girls. The Masonic Charitable Foundation assistance was exceptional and a termly allowance was agreed which included some ballet lessons for Ophelia. In my opinion the support I’ve received in dealing with the case on behalf of Sean and his family has been outstanding.'
Graham Bennett, the Provincial Grand Almoner for Cornwall stated: 'The working relationship between the Provinces of Cornwall and Devonshire have been outstanding. The bond we’ve struck up together for this application, greatly assisted by the United Grand Lodge of England was essential to ensure the smooth application process would be signed off without any delay. My sincere thanks go to the brethren from Devonshire who have helped create a perfect result for a serious problem. To meet Sean and see him with his mobility chair is very humbling and shows what an incredible charity the MCF is.'
Having been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, Sean has seen numerous doctors and a rheumatologist who initially explained what long-term complications he might expect. He has also received many treatments and therapies, but none have really helped and only made the condition worse or more painful for him.
Dominique, Sean’s wife added: 'Our youngest daughter Talulah turns two years old in a couple of days and Sean has not really been out of the house with her, for virtually 95% of her life. We cannot begin to express what a difference this mobility chair is already making, it’s absolutely amazing. We are now able as a family to enjoy the simple task of going to the shops. To see Sean enjoy his mobility and independence after so long of not being able to do anything, is very emotional. To all those who have helped us, particularly the brethren and the MCF, we will be forever grateful. We have been given an amazing opportunity to grow as a family once again.'
To conclude, Sean insisted on the final word: 'I have given my story as my way of thanking the MCF and the people who have worked with me during the last few years, as they are our unsung heroes in my eyes and have made such a big impact on my hopeless situation. I am starting to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel thanks to Freemasonry.'
More than 30 vulnerable young people will have the chance to transform their lives, thanks to a grant from Buckinghamshire Freemasons
Milton Keynes charity Ride High helps disadvantaged and vulnerable children by teaching them to ride and care for horses. They also deliver projects and activities to develop confidence and skills that many of the children lack, but desperately need, so they can fully participate in life.
The grant from Buckinghamshire Freemasons of £4,576 comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation and is helping Ride High to work closely with their teenage members and to encourage and support their future ambitions. Ride High seeks to instil confidence and to give the children opportunities such as work experience placements to broaden their horizons and give them something to aim for.
Since it was established in 2008, the charity has supported nearly 1,000 children across Milton Keynes and over 90% of leavers are in full-time education, work experience or employment and thriving six months after leaving.
Helen Dixon, Marketing and Fundraising Manager at Ride High, said: 'We are delighted to have received this generous grant from Bucks Freemasons. It will allow us to provide our older members with extra support, guidance, experiences and skills to give them a real chance at having a successful future career.'
Phil Blacklaw, the Assistant Grand Master for Buckinghamshire, commented: 'We are very pleased to be able to help Ride High in their hugely important work with some very vulnerable young people. Helping them at this crucial point can give them a much higher chance of making a success of their lives in the future.'
Young adult carers in Buckinghamshire are being helped to overcome social isolation and improve their wellbeing, thanks to a grant from Buckinghamshire Freemasons to Carers Bucks
The £20,000 grant comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation and will support the ‘Same Chances’ programme, designed to work with young people as they transition into adulthood and independence whilst continuing to provide unpaid care for an ill or disabled family member.
In the UK there are an estimated 700,000 young carers, 2,500 of them in Buckinghamshire. The Young Adult Carers service started in September 2015 with the target to support 50 young adult carers living in Buckinghamshire within the first 18 months. In just over two years, the Young Adult Carers team have connected with and supported double that figure within the county.
Young Carers Bucks believe a young person who is the primary carer for a family member should not have fewer chances for further or higher education and employment compared with their peers.
The Young Adult Carers team help young people overcome the barriers they may be facing, while knowing the person they care for is safe and looked after. The team offer regular Life skills sessions, support worker drop in sessions, social meet ups, targeted group work and one to one support. There is also a Young Adult Carers steering group, which gives young people a voice to share their experiences with other young people and professionals.
Sally Mansi, Young Carers Service Manager at Carers Bucks, commented: 'We’re very grateful to Buckinghamshire Freemasons for their generous grant. It will support 80 young carers as they move into adulthood, giving them some of the same life choices and opportunities as their peers.'
Mike Clanfield, Provincial Grand Charity Steward for Buckinghamshire, said: 'We’re very pleased to be able to support the Carers Trust in Bucks who do hugely important work with young people who are the primary carers for ill and disabled family members. These young people deserve the same chances as everyone else.'