In the space of one week the Provincial Grand Almoner has staged two key events in the Province of West Lancashire
The first was the annual care dinner in Leyland where the guest speaker Col Sylvia Quayle OBE spoke about the work of SAFFA. The second was a presentation made at Poulton le Sands Lodge No. 1051 by James France of The Freemasons' Grand Charity, which clearly demonstrated to the almoners and brethren present the far-reaching and important work undertaken by the central masonic charities, and the Grand Charity in particular.
The Freemasons' Grand Charity is, of course, one of the four central charities which also includes the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and the Masonic Samaritan Fund.
However, the Grand Charity is specifically a grant-making organisation which was created to be a focus for non-masonic grants. It also helps Freemasons and their families who are in a difficult financial situation, and other masonic charities in times of need. In the 30 years of its existence the Grand Charity has made grants totalling well over £117,000,000.
During 2013 alone almost 2,000 people were assisted by the Grand Charity with approved Masonic Relief Grants totalling £3,700,000.
James detailed two cases where help had been given and which showed the absolutely crucial role played by almoners in visiting brethren and dependants or widows, and gently establishing their circumstances to assess need.
In making non-masonic grants the charity seeks to make a significant difference to people in real need by supporting issues that Freemasons and their families are concerned about. They do this by supporting projects that achieve a long-term impact in the community.
During 2012, £2,500,000 million was donated to charities across England and Wales. One of the specific criteria for the making of a grant is that the application is from a nationwide charity. Charities that serve only a local area are not eligible for support from the Freemasons' Grand Charity and are advised to seek funding from local or Provincial sources, thus emphasising the importance of continuing to support to the full the West Lancashire Freemasons' Charity.
The kind of support given by the Freemasons' Grand Charity to non-masonic causes includes: medical research, including treatment for Multiple Sclerosis and Cancer Research; help and support for vulnerable people; funding to provide youth opportunities; and hospices.
Each year grants are available to all hospice services in England and Wales that receive less than 60% of their income from the NHS.
Air Ambulances: last year marked over £1,000,000 in total donations for Air Ambulance services given by the Freemasons' Grand Charity.
Emergency grants for disaster relief: the Grand Charity also seeks to respond when disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes and flooding occur throughout the world.
However, whilst there is no doubt that support for non-masonic causes is extremely important, the 'bread and butter' of the grant-giving arm of the Grand Charity is that of Masonic Relief Grants.
From the perspective of Freemasons in West Lancashire such Masonic grants over the last 12 months have totalled 166 amounting to £347,910. Expanded over the last full five years this figure increases to 1145 grants and a total amount of £2,324,793!