Just one of the thousands of children of Freemasons supported by the MCF when life took a turn for the worse, Liz Willingham reflects on how different her life might have been without the support of the charity throughout her education
The Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) is proud to champion the right for young people to access educational opportunities, regardless of difficult circumstances their family may face. Through grants to cover school costs and university scholarships, the MCF enables hundreds of young people every year to pursue their chosen careers.
When Liz Willingham was just 12 years old, she watched her father die of a stroke in the family’s garden. Now 47 years old, Liz says she recognises the crucial role played by the MCF afterwards. ‘I always remember it was Good Friday. It was just so sudden – he was only 55. If I recall, the Freemasons turned up at our door with support before anyone else.’
The process of dealing with a traumatic experience was hard, but Liz explains that the Freemasons were there through the entire journey.
‘The MCF got in touch with us and offered me a place at the Royal Masonic School for Girls, which was part of the charity at the time. I don’t even think we got in contact with them; it was just so proactively driven through the local masons.
‘The MCF financially supported me during my time at school right through to university, which made such a big difference. The family grief lasted a long time, and I was at a delicate stage in my life – just having the resources to fall back on gave me a lot of comfort.’
When Liz was given the chance to study Media and Communications at Bournemouth University, the MCF provided an additional grant to make sure she had the resources needed to complete her course.
‘I’ve run my own PR business for 19 and a half years now, and have had two children in between – I talk to them regularly about the support I received. Without the MCF’s support, who knows, I may not have started my business, met my husband or had our children!’
To watch Liz tell her story in her own words, visit the MCF’s YouTube channel at: www.youtube.com/masoniccharitablefoundation
The new issue of Better Lives is out now and focusses on the grants and support the MCF can provide when you are facing a crisis. To make sure you receive your copy of future issues of Better Lives magazine, please click ‘sign up’ at the bottom of the MCF’s homepage at www.mcf.org.uk
The Masonic Charitable Foundation has donated £20,000 to St Mary’s Hospice in Ulverston to support its Make Do and Mend project, aimed at giving bereaved people a chance to get out of the house and mend furniture
Jo Blake, head of clinical services at the hospice, explained: ‘Often we get donated items that may need a bit of work doing on them. The money will be spent in developing a workshop in the warehouse where this can be done by bereaved family members.
'It will give bereaved people an opportunity to get out of the house and talk with others who know what they are experiencing, whilst at the same time engaging in something constructive.’
The Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) has donated £4,400 to MS Action, a charity that has provided complementary treatments for those with multiple sclerosis for more than 20 years
The funds will assist with the running costs of the centre’s high-density oxygen treatment chamber in Walthamstow, East London. The donation presented by London masons will contribute towards operating costs for the specialist treatment – available not only to multiple sclerosis sufferers, but also adults and children with autism, cerebral palsy or Parkinson’s disease, as well as those who are recovering from a stroke or cancer.
Debbie Peacock, MS Action’s treasurer, said: ‘The donation from the MCF and London masons is helping to run and maintain our oxygen chamber. London Freemasonry’s support is invaluable.’
HRH The Duke of Kent, Grand Master and Grand President of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), was present for the official opening of the charity’s refurbished offices
Following the launch of the MCF, the offices underwent a much-needed refit to meet the staff’s changing needs. During the transition from several charities to a single organisation, it became clear that the existing office structure was a barrier to working as a unified team.
The renovation has created a space that is lighter, brighter and more open, with more facilities for staff to meet and collaborate with one another.
The Duke of Kent’s visit helps to demonstrate the impact of the MCF’s work and how all teams are working together to support the masonic and wider community.
Lincolnshire Freemasons have stepped in with a £3,000 donation to help Scunthorpe’s Forge project meet the growing demands for its services amongst those in poverty and suffering homelessness
The service, based on the town’s Cottage Beck Road, is facing more demands for help than at any time since it was launched almost 20 years ago, and this latest donation will be used as part funding for a part-time support worker to help meet the need.
The money is a donation from the Masonic Charitable Foundation and was made by representatives of Scunthorpe’s four masonic lodges, who were able join some of The Forge’s service users in a creative writing workshop.
The Forge is managed by Andrea Houghton, who said that staff had established partnerships with other agencies such as social local housing authorities, drug agencies, mental health agencies and social and private landlords, and as such was a hub at which those in need could access services in a safe and supportive environment. She said that by working closely with these agencies they were able to get help to where it was needed quickly.
The centre is now open for five mornings a week to provide support with a range of issues, and three afternoons a week for creative work. Lunches are provided, cooked by the service users themselves, and there were shower and laundry facilities, which had been introduced as the result of other financial help.
Andrea said: 'A number of factors, including changes in the benefits system, have meant numbers attending our Day Centre have almost doubled, and we can only see these numbers increasing. We say The Forge is about opportunities for change; it’s about helping people to help themselves, and build in them the resilience to be able to do that.'
Lincolnshire Freemason Stuart Pearcey said: 'The funds from the Masonic Charitable Foundation are an example of how we can support the work of non-Masonic organisations. Having funds available means that people working in support of the community can make a more effective contribution than they would otherwise be able to do.'
People living with multiple sclerosis (MS) in Buckinghamshire will benefit from a grant of £30,000, which will provide over 850 hours of physiotherapy to members of the Chilterns MS Centre
Regular physiotherapy and support can help those with MS to maintain mobility, cope with their disability and achieve an improved quality of life. On average, the Centre offers 256 hours of physiotherapy a week through one-to-one care and group exercise sessions. There are just over 110,000 people diagnosed with MS in the UK and approximately 850 in Buckinghamshire, of which 550 of them are members of the Chilterns MS Centre.
Many people using the Centre feel that it really makes a difference to their everyday lives. One of their members, Sue, said: 'Thanks to the fantastic physiotherapy I have had, I managed to appear in my daughter’s wedding photos without my walking aids. A year ago that just wouldn’t have been possible, so you can never know how much this means to me. Thank you for being a lifeline to me and so many others.'
Robert Breakwell, Chief Executive of Chilterns MS Centre, said: 'We are delighted that Buckinghamshire Freemasons have made this very generous grant to support our physiotherapy service. As a small charity, we rely on grants like this to continue to treat and support people living with MS in the local area, and to keep them independent for as long as possible.'
Barry Sparks, Provincial Grand Secretary for Buckinghamshire Freemasons, said: 'We’re very pleased to be able to help the Chiltern MS Centre, who do outstanding work for people living with MS. The regular physiotherapy they provide can make a huge difference to their quality of life and extend their capacity for independent living.'
People facing homelessness in the Western Bay area of South Wales will have greater support fighting through legal and administrative bureaucracy, thanks to a grant from South Wales Freemasons
Shelter Cymru, the Welsh people and homes charity, has been awarded £20,000 to help deliver a unique project entitled 'Housing Support Plus' working across the Western Bay covering Carmarthenshire, Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.
The grant from South Wales Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
This grant will support a vital personal service for people facing homelessness, supporting them at a very difficult time and giving them reassurance. It will see a new Housing Advocacy Volunteer Coordinator recruiting and training volunteers who will themselves directly support more than 200 people or families every year.
The service is aimed at people who are not sufficiently aware of their rights around housing and benefit issues and who need additional support to engage with caseworkers. There is also a special focus on practical issues such as arranging pre-meetings to ensure paperwork is completed, taking notes and providing individuals with a meeting record and information on next steps and actions.
Michelle Wales, Campaigns Manager at Shelter Cymru, said: 'We greatly welcome this grant from South Wales Freemasons. It will help us to provide essential support to people who often do not have a roof over their heads and who are struggling with bureaucracy.'
Speaking at a presentation in Cardiff, Provincial Grand Master of South Wales Freemasons, Gareth Jones OBE, said: 'We are very pleased to be able to support Shelter Cymru, who carry out excellent work with some of the most vulnerable people in our community.'
Doncaster Freemasons have given a £5,000 boost to a charity providing a valuable counselling service to disadvantaged young people in Doncaster
The money, via the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), will fund Doncaster Housing’s service in supporting young people at risk of homelessness, for a further 12 months.
Stuart Shore, Chief Executive of Doncaster Housing for Young People, said: 'Virtually all of our clients come from disadvantaged backgrounds in Doncaster, and we provide support at a time of crisis in their lives. Our core purpose is supporting young people who are at risk of homelessness, but our clients often have a range of support needs and many experience mental ill health.
'Our counselling service is really important in helping young people address often deep-seated issues in their lives and this, in turn, helps provide the stability for them to sustain a tenancy and cope with independent living.'
Graham Bailey, the Master of Danecastre Lodge No. 4843 in the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding, said: 'We are delighted that our funding has ensured the continuation of this important service for another year.
'Charity is at the heart of Freemasonry and we are always keen to support organisations such as Doncaster Housing for Young People, whose work is making a huge, positive difference, to the lives of young, vulnerable people across Doncaster.'
The donation was made by the Masonic Charitable Foundation on behalf of West Lancashire Freemasons, which follows the hospice's bid for a grant to fund a special project. As a result, a visit was arranged from the St Helens and Prescot Group from within the Province of West Lancashire to mark the donation.
Willowbrook was chosen as a recipient in order to aid in the creation of ‘Willowbrook Connections’. This is a three-phase project to aid carers and family members who need support before, during and after the loss of a loved one. Particular emphasis will be placed on assisting children and male relatives, two groups who are often reluctant to seek help.
Specifically, the project will provide a ‘Kids Shack’ where children between the ages of 5 and 16 can come along to after school hours, get to know each other, and take part in activities together. Support will be on hand from trained staff who will engage with the children and help support them in those difficult times.
A similar project will create a ‘Men Shed’, designed to help and support male relatives who are often unwilling to talk about their difficulties.
The St Helens and Prescot Masonic Group has supported Willowbrook since its foundation and donations from the group, as well as from individual lodges and chapters, are an important aid in funding this essential and important local service. Although the hospice does receive aid from central government and the local health authority, this only provides a small percentage of the large sum they require each year to function.
Neil Wright, Willowbrook Hospice CEO, detailed that the hospice costs £4.5 million annually to run and that government support of just £1.5 million left a very large funding deficit. Neil explained that this shortfall had to be filled by appealing for voluntary aid and support from the local and wider community. Money, he said, was raised by various means, with donations and legacies forming a very important part of this fundraising, supplemented by the hospice lottery and income from the hospice.
The Masonic visitors were welcomed by the Chairman of the trustees Alan Chick, who gave a short explanation of the work done by Willowbrook and thanked the Freemasons for their generous donation.
The ‘Willowbrook Connections’ project was then explained by Family Support Therapist Jan Barlow, who explained that she would now be enabled to provide full time support and much more care and therapy for bereaved relatives. She stressed how ‘Willowbrook Connections’ would also provide continuing support for family members of terminally ill patients both pre and post bereavement.
On behalf of the visitors, Assistant Provincial Grand Master Tony Bent paid tribute to the excellence of the care provided by the hospice and praised the staff for their commitment to delivering that care.
Hampshire and Isle of Wight Freemasons have donated £15,000 to help local charity Macmillan Caring Locally purchase a new minibus
The charity, which provides palliative care at Christchurch Hospital and in the community, had been fundraising to purchase the vehicle.
Following a public vote held by the Masonic Charitable Foundation, it was awarded a grant which it put towards the bus. The bus will be used to take terminally ill people out on trips and excursions.
Freemasons Leon Whitfield, the Assistant Provincial Grand Master of Hampshire and Isle of Wight, and Rodney Dale joined the Mayor of Bournemouth Lawrence Williams and his Mayoress wife Elaine at the handover, together with staff and volunteers.
Lin Sharp, Capital Appeal Director at Macmillan Caring Locally, said: 'We are absolutely thrilled to have been awarded £15,000 from the Masonic Charitable Foundation. We are overwhelmed by the wonderful support of the community that has made this possible.
'Part of the service that is offered at our hotel and at the Macmillan Unit Day Centre is the opportunity to go out for trips around the local area using a minibus. These excursions take guests to the beaches, local towns and other scenic locations where they can relax and enjoy themselves out in the fresh air for a few hours during the day.'
Leon Whitfield said: 'We are delighted to continue our support for the Macmillan Caring Locally team. Their contribution in the local community is invaluable and this minibus will enhance the work they already do.'