New university recruits in Bucks
The Universities Scheme is well underway in Buckinghamshire with Marlow Lodge, No. 2752, joining Grenville Lodge, No. 1787, in the recruitment of graduates and students. At its first meeting under the scheme, Marlow Lodge initiated graduate Jed Russell (23), and students Mohammad Malik (19) and Nathan Kapoor (24) from Buckinghamshire New University, which is based at High Wycombe.
Top marks for Universities Scheme
It was a special occasion when six students at the University of Buckingham joined Grenville Lodge, No. 1787, which meets on the campus, at the same time. Among the guests at the initiation were Past Assistant Grand Master and President of the Universities Scheme David Williamson and Buckinghamshire PGM Gordon Robertson. Lodge Secretary Andrew Hough said, ‘I am pleased that increasing numbers of people are recognising the advantages of joining Freemasonry, which stresses friendship, decency and charity. It’s also great fun.’
Not to be outdone, Castle of Leicester Lodge, No. 7767, has also undertaken a sextuple initiation ceremony. It was a fitting day for Master Bryan Weston in his final meeting, having initiated 13 brethren in 2014. The lodge has seen a steady influx of candidates since joining the Universities Scheme in January 2013. Indeed, the ceremony came just days after the lodge conducted a quintuple passing in the Leicestershire and Rutland Lodge of Installed Masters, No. 7896.
Support for Search Dogs
Buckinghamshire masons in the Slough area have donated £2,800 to Search Dogs, a charity that trains handlers and their animals to help Thames Valley Police find vulnerable adults and children who have vanished from their communities. Volunteers and their dogs are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to save lives throughout the area. Deputy PGM Mike Stimson commented, ‘We are supporting Search Dogs because the people involved demonstrate our shared values of friendship, decency and charity.’
It was an unusual way to raise money for charity when representatives of 28 lodges and 11 chapters from Slough joined in a game of bubble football. The eye-catching event, organised by Denver Lynn of Bucks masons, saw participants encase themselves in a large plastic cocoon before kicking for goal and raised £1,000. As a result, help will be provided for those who have fallen on hard times through redundancy, illness or bereavement.
Green-fingered guides win top prize
Gardening Guides have won the top prize in an annual competition organised by Buckinghamshire masons that rewards youngsters who work hard in their local communities. Members of 4th Taplow and Hitcham Guides won the £2,500 for producing planters for the elderly at a Burnham care home.
The runners-up received £1,000, three other groups were awarded £500 each, and sponsoring lodges received £500 each for a charity of their choice. The teams were invited to visit their local masonic centres, while the sponsoring lodges visited their chosen projects, providing an additional way to promote Freemasonry in the community.
Press talk comes to Beaconsfield
Bowen Lodge, No. 2816, which meets at Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire, has hosted the 2013 Prestonian Lecture, ‘As we were seen: The Press & Freemasonry.’ Given by journalist and academic Paul Calderwood, the lecture was an historical account of Freemasonry’s relationship with the press over nearly three centuries. The event raised around £900 for various charities, including the National Autistic Society.
On the right track at High Wycombe
Bucks masons have created an oasis of peace outside a transport hub with a £4,000 garden funded as part of the Freemasonry in the Community scheme.
Members of the 21 lodges and nine chapters who meet in Beaconsfield are contributing to the plot outside High Wycombe railway station.
A team of green-fingered masons will tend the garden in the future. They include Tony Dyckes, Master of Hall Barn Lodge, No. 8480, in Beaconsfield. He said: ‘The aim was to create a garden which emphasised Freemasonry’s core aims of friendship, decency and charity.’
High Wycombe station manager Rob Munday added: ‘It has made a real difference to the station approach – the garden is now so appealing that even bumble bees want to live there!’
Inspiration in Bucks
Local masons have given their support to a county-wide scheme launched by the Buckinghamshire Advertiser and Buckinghamshire Examiner to reward those who play an inspirational role within the community. Bucks masons sponsored the Young Carer award, which was won by Georgie Church, who had been nominated by her wheelchair-bound father Richard. Georgie, 14, has only ever known her father as a paraplegic after he broke his back in a motorcycle accident in 1977. Richard said that his daughter helps with the shopping, recycling and gardening, washes his car and even decorated his bedroom for a birthday present one year.
Practical support for MS sufferers
Buckinghamshire masons have joined the battle to help hundreds of Thames Valley people hit by multiple sclerosis (MS), which attacks the central nervous system and can lead to patients virtually becoming prisoners in their own bodies.
The Buckinghamshire Masonic Centenary Fund, which helps local non-masonic charities, donated £15,000 to the new Chilterns MS Centre in Aylesbury, which was opened by actor Sir David Jason in September 2012. The centre’s chief executive, Jo Woolf, says some 260 patients are treated each week, receiving practical support to face up to the disease.
The donation has paid for vital equipment to enable a new building to become operational immediately, without having to wait months to raise money for the badly needed kit. Equipment includes communications devices, training-room furniture, a fully equipped kitchen and landscape gardening for the surrounding area.
An innovative competition run by Buckinghamshire Freemasons is confronting stereotypes by giving young people the chance to show why they care. Sophie Radice reports from the ihelp finals
The atmosphere in Beaconsfield Masonic Centre is buzzing with excitement. Five youth groups from Buckinghamshire have made it into the ihelp finals. Over the afternoon each team will make a presentation to a panel of judges to convince them that they deserve the top prize of £5,000 to fund their community project.
Each team is different. There’s Misunderstood, a street dance group who have raised £4,000 to build a youth club. The Leon School team has been making beautiful bird feeders for a local old people’s home and 1st Stokenchurch Scout troop has been running respite camping weekends for young carers.
Jan Smith from Leon School explains how much being a finalist means to the competitors: ‘Most of our kids have difficulties with learning, and presenting the project to the panel is particularly challenging for them. But being a finalist has been such a boost and the responsibility of putting their case forward has really increased their self-esteem.’
The ihelp project is the brainchild of Buckinghamshire Assistant Provincial Grand Master Mike Stimson and ihelp’s president Eugene Matthias. Three years ago, the two Freemasons found themselves talking over a pint about the mismatch between the young people they knew and the poor image the press gave them.
‘There were so many negative articles about the behaviour of youths and it just seemed so unhelpful. We thought about how great it would be if there was a Britain’s Got Talent-type contest to showcase the good things that young people do for their community,’ says Mike. The idea fitted in well with initiatives set up in 2006 by the then Provincial Grand Master Ray Reed to promote the work that Freemasons do in the community, as well as talk more freely and openly about their fraternity.
Turning an idea into ihelp
With approval from Ray and Deputy Provincial Grand Master Clifford Drake, Mike and Eugene worked together in conjunction with Provincial Information Officer John Poulter and Chris Coombs to roll ihelp out across the Province. ‘We thought up the slogan “Turn Hoodies into Goodies” and reached out to Scouts, Girl Guides, Air Cadets, Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme participants, youth clubs, church groups and schools. The response was amazing,’ remembers Eugene.
Mike explains how the ihelp idea fitted in with the concept of promoting Freemasonry within the community. ‘We already had a big display explaining the Craft, which goes round the local fêtes and community events. So ihelp was the next step,’ he explains. ‘We wanted ihelp to be different. We wanted to encourage youngsters to be the leaders of tomorrow and the successful projects were those led by the kids themselves, whether they’d been running for a while or just got off the ground. Overall, we wanted to ensure that each project embodied our values of friendship, decency and charity. That’s the modern way of explaining brotherly love, relief and truth.’
With the ihelp team constantly being asked to give talks about the project, there has been a great deal of interest in ihelp from local authorities, district councils and local businesses. Freemasons in other counties are now considering taking up the competition and there has been support from the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, who visited Buckinghamshire in the summer of 2010 to see Freemasonry in the Community projects.
Promoted around the Province through town and village shows, the ihelp project is now in the fabric of Freemasonry in Buckinghamshire. It was through these shows that John made contact with Sir David Jason, who agreed to back the scheme.
Back at the competition, the teams are waiting to make their presentations. Each team is cheered when they go to present in front of the panel and when they come back there is a feeling of real camaraderie rather than rivalry. In the hall where the presentations are being made, the judges do their best to put the young contestants at ease. One of the judges, Clifford, is asked to be part of the Misunderstood dance troop and he rises to the occasion. Donning a large gold chain and a backwards cap, he shows himself to be surprisingly good at following the street dance routine.
With all the presentations making convincing cases for why they should win, the judges have a particularly hard job this year in deciding who should take first prize. In the end it goes to the 1st Stokenchurch Scouts, whose presentation, although perhaps lower key than some of the others, proves to be such a worthy cause that the judges felt they could best benefit from the top prize. Leon School and their temple-like bird feeders get the second prize of £1,000.
After a long day with a lot of laughter and some tears, each team comes away smiling with a generous cheque in their hands. As Emily and Chloe from the 4th Taplow and Hitcham Guides, who raised money to take children with severe joint problems skating, enthusiastically explain: ‘We got so much out of coming here today and being runners-up. It was a great experience learning how to speak to an audience and present our case. We loved it!’