Freemasons from across Leeds have answered a call to ensure hundreds of children across the city will receive at least one present this festive season
In previous years, members of lodges and side orders who meet in Headingley’s Castle Grove Masonic Hall have been asked to donate a present or money to buy gifts, which were then donated to a number of local charities.
The organisations who received gifts over the last two years include Leeds Children’s Hospital, Martin House Hospice Care for Children and Young People, Leeds Children’s Charity, and Leeds Jewish Welfare Board and Barnardo’s.
However, because the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced the closure of Castle Grove, toy appeal co-ordinator organiser Graham Shiers has asked for monetary contributions instead, resulting in an avalanche of cash donations totalling in excess of £2,700 plus donations of brand new toys and clothing.
Graham said: 'The generosity of my fellow Freemasons is just overwhelming, and because of this we are able to increase the list of recipients this year from five charities to six, with Leeds Baby Bank, PhysCap Children's Charity and Homeless Street Angels now benefitting.
'I’ve been blown away by the donations to date. In addition to toys and gifts we are also buying more practical presents including pyjamas and winter clothing.
'It has also enabled us to provide other items including nappies, nappy sacks, baby wipes, baby shampoo and wash, plus other essentials that the Leeds Baby Bank will distribute to families in need over the festive period.
'We are also now helping four families via Homeless Street Angels, including a single dad whose partner killed herself two years ago. He lost his job due to struggling with child care - he has a ten year old daughter and has nothing for her so we'll make sure she has a good Christmas.
'And with many Jewish Freemasons meeting at Castle Grove, I’m once again delighted that Leeds Jewish Welfare Board will again receive Chanukah gifts for the 24 children under its care.'
Graham - a member of Loyalty Lodge and the Lodge of Fidelity who started the toy appeal two years ago - said: 'Never in all my years of being a Freemason have I been prouder of being a member of this wonderful fraternity.
'Despite all the hardships that Covid has inflicted, not only has the local membership risen to the occasion, it has done so to the power of ten, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
'I would like to personally thank everyone who has donated to this cause. Charity is one of the three great pillars that Freemasonry is founded on - and charity is very dear to our hearts.”
Further information about the Freemasons Province of Yorkshire West Riding can be found on their website.