Essex Freemasons keen to be getting back to business

Saturday, 21 August 2021

157 Brethren were up early on Saturday 14th August 2021 and made the journey to Saxon Hall in Southend and a further 112 attended by Zoom

They were all greeted by Colin Felton, the Provincial Grand Charity Steward, who hosted the Essex Provincial Charity Steward's Conference. The guest speaker was Suhail Alam, the Chief Digital and Technology Officer for the Relief Chest Scheme of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), the Freemasons’ charity which is committed to giving £7 million pounds to help charities and good causes in Essex. 

Chris Hicks, the Deputy Provincial Grand Charity Steward, not only worked hard behind the scenes to organise the successful conference but also gave everyone a situation report on the Essex 2022 Festival. Chris explained: 'With £4.3 million banked already, £3.9m from lodges and £400k from chapters, there are still opportunities to set landmarks. If each Lodge raised just £800 per meeting in the remaining seven months, then £5 million is well within our sights.' Chris pointed out this can be done by dinners, sponsored walks, white tables, magic nights, Essex 500 Challenges, individual challenges, quiz nights, race nights and raffles.

This is very much in line with the incoming new Provincial Grand Master for Essex, Paul Tarrant, who is a great believer that every Lodge should have a focus with a mission to help charity and contribute to society.

In an interesting and informative presentation, Suhail Alam explained to delegates how the MCF had made major advances using technology to help make donating to charity even more straightforward for members and the administration by Charity Stewards much easier. This includes greater awareness and use of:

 - QR collection codes, a type of matrix barcode, which Lodges can print on their summonses and other documentation to enable donors to give digitally using their smartphones – but not, of course, during an open lodge meeting
 - Green Vouchers for easy transfers to the Essex 2022 Festival
 - Transfer Allocation Forms for Lodges and Chapters which wish to credit payments to the MCF to individual members, and
 - The E-voucher platform

Colin Felton talked about regular giving and tax relief. In the last Festival, £800,000 was collected from Gift Aid, but so far in this Festival the figure is £400,000. Colin announced an innovative new initiative allowing more members to qualify for the Essex 2022 Festival Stewards’ medal. Colin said: 'If a Brother arranges a standing order or gives a regular giving pledge to donate £500, plus Gift Aid, within a new extended period of 18 months to December 2023, let me know and I will personally send the medal to him.'

Colin described being a Charity Steward: 'It’s hard work.'

'We are in the firing line and we are all about changing lives.'

The feedback from delegates of this highly successful conference is most praiseworthy. As Lodges are now meeting again, with Brethren who have not been together for some time, it is clear from the 269 who were up early on Saturday 14th August 2021 that our Charity Stewards are keen to be getting back to business.

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