Celebrating 300 years

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.'

The grant from the Buckinghamshire Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation.

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.'

West Lancashire Freemasons have donated £19,449 to Willowbrook Hospice in Merseyside

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.'

Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons have donated £22,595 to 19 local charities at a special awards ceremony at Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester, on 13th January 2018

The charities receiving the awards included those helping and assisting others in the local communities with disabilities, children who are deprived or have limited life expectancy and the elderly suffering from dementia.

Rainbows Children’s Hospice, based in Loughborough, received a total of £2,145 from the Masonic Charitable Foundation and the Lodge of the Argonauts No. 8210 which meets in Leicester. Gary Farnfield, Leicestershire Community Fundraiser for Rainbows, said: 'Thank you very much to the Freemasons for the wonderful donation. This money will help us to create special memories for families whilst they are with us.'

A £1,000 donation from the Leicestershire and Rutland Masonic Charity Association was also given to Shepshed-based Steps, a conductive education centre, which provides an innovative learning process for children with motor disabilities to develop in the same way as their able-bodied peers.

Camp Charnwood, based at Beaumanor Hall in Woodhouse Eaves, which provides five day holidays for Leicestershire youngsters aged between 7 and 16 with T1 Diabetes, also received a donation of £1,000.

The NHS charity Raising Health for the Advanced Dementia Care Wards at the Evington Centre received a donation of £1,500. 

Lindsay Woodward, the Charitable Funds Manager for Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, said: 'Thank you so much to the Freemasons. We have two lovely courtyard areas which we wish to turn into dementia-friendly gardens including activity sheds which will engage a person and make them feel more calm and cope with their dementia.'

Step Out Youth Club, which operates in South Wigston, offers children different activities in a safe area, received a donation of £500 to provide new classes for cooking and growing vegetables to emphasise healthy eating. Carl Walters from Step Out said: 'Step Out has 60-80 kids at present from 8 to 16 years old and they are now learning how to cook healthily.'

Harborough Community Bus is a small charity local to Market Harborough which runs minibuses for community groups and certain individuals who would otherwise have some difficulty getting out. The charity received a donation of £1,000.

John Feavyour, Chairman and Trustee of the Harborough Community Bus, said: 'It costs about £12,000 per year to run the Community Bus including fuel and safety checks and all the rest of it. This donation will pay for a whole month.' 

Voluntary Action South Leicestershire, which is dedicated to improving  lives in the Harborough District and the wider community of Leicestershire, also received a £1,000 donation. Hannah Currington, Carers Delivery Officer, said: 'The group meets in Market Harborough, but because we are open to all of the Harborough District one of our main costs is transport. Lots of the kids live up to 12 miles out and if the voluntary drivers didn’t physically go and get them, they just wouldn’t be unable to come. This £1,000 will go largely to supporting the reimbursement of the voluntary drivers.'

Stathern-based Dove Cottage Day Hospice received an award of £500. Dove Cottage offers quality palliative day care to people living in north east Leicestershire, Rutland and south east Nottinghamshire to fund improved services. 

Chris Rowley, Charity Director of Dove Cottage Day Hospice, said: 'During the last 12 months, we have been running dementia workshops for both dementia sufferers and their carers. This donation is very gratefully received from the Freemasons which will go towards working with people with dementia.'

The Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland David Hagger said: 'Freemasons have always been deeply involved in charity; from its earliest days the organisation has been connected with caring for orphans, the sick and the elderly. We are thrilled to continue to support our local communities by making donations to these worthy charities.'

Just getting started

With the Tercentenary celebrations raising awareness and improving perceptions, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes believes there has never been a better time to be a Freemason

It has been an enormous privilege to have been Pro Grand Master during the Tercentenary year. At the outset, Provinces and Districts were asked to concentrate on coming up with events in their own jurisdiction that their brethren could join in and enjoy. Dare I say, they all did this in spades, and I include our groups of lodges in that.

Quite rightly, there was often a significant charitable aspect to these events. I should add here that this was greatly enhanced by the imaginative input from the Masonic Charitable Foundation with its multitude of grants across the Provinces. The Rulers and past Rulers have endeavoured to meet your requests and wherever we have been, brethren have looked after us with incredible kindness and generosity. Thank you all so much.

Since our last communication, we have had the Grand Ball and our major celebratory event at the Royal Albert Hall. The events of 29 to 31 October were a resounding success, and I must single out Keith Gilbert and his team for the superb administrative arrangements throughout. Diane Clements and the museum staff managed to collect, catalogue and display the many gifts brought by the 133 Grand Masters from around the world amazingly quickly. These are now all displayed in the museum.

A JOB WELL DONE

Finally, thanks to James Long and his team, who took us all by surprise at the Royal Albert Hall with an amazing and uplifting performance of masonry across the three centuries. The whole London experience was beyond my expectations, and from the comments we have had since, it astounded all our hundreds of visitors from overseas. Well done indeed.

Brethren, has there ever been a better time to be a Freemason? I really believe that during the year we have learned so much about how to talk about our Freemasonry with non-members, helped enormously by the Sky documentary, which has opened our eyes and made the general public more receptive. I would love us to have had more editorial control over the end product, but that would, perhaps, have defeated the object. Nonetheless, I think we can go forward from here with enormous self-belief and pride.

We head now into 2018, continuing the work of the Improvement Delivery Group and capitalising on the great successes of 2017, rewarding those who have worked so hard throughout the year. We will also be remembering the fact that it is 100 years since the end of World War I, after which Freemasons’ Hall was built as the Masonic Peace Memorial to recognise the sacrifice of more than 3,000 English Freemasons who fell in that conflict.

‘I think we can go forward from here with enormous self-belief and pride’

Published in UGLE
Tuesday, 13 March 2018 00:00

Gifts from around the world on display

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.

Published in UGLE

Freemasons from both Cornwall and Devonshire Provinces have joined together to present a life changing state of the art mobility scooter to a young Freemason

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.'

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