Earlier this year West Lancashire Freemasons donated £20,000 to St Mary’s Hospice to support its ‘Make Do and Mend’ initiative and in August 2018 they readily accepted an invitation to visit the workshop and see the progress that has been made
‘A huge success that has more than met our expectations’, were the words of Lynsey Lawson, who is the team leader for family and bereavement support at St Mary’s Hospice in Furness, when she was asked for her views on the ‘Make Do and Mend’ initiative.
The scheme was able to be implemented due to a grant of £20,000 from the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), which enabled an unused corner of the premises to be developed into a suitable work space.
The aim of the scheme is to provide a chance for bereaved men and women to come together to share their experiences and, ultimately, to help each other through their loss. The initial idea for the scheme arose from discussions on how best to connect with those bereaved people who found it uncomfortable to access the already available support and counselling. Experience shows that this relates mainly, but not exclusively, to men.
Head of Clinical Services Jo Blake explained: ‘It was thought that providing an opportunity for them to get together with people in the same position and to work together in upcycling donated furniture may be a possible way forward. A blueprint for the program was drawn up and an application was submitted to the Masonic Charitable Foundation for the funds needed to get the scheme up and running. We are very grateful that our bid was successful.’
West Lancashire Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Grainger, along with Furness and South Lakeland Group Chairman Peter Schofield and local charity steward Richard Wilcock, recently had the pleasure of visiting the workshop and meeting some of the users.
After speaking with members of the hospice team, as well as some of those benefitting from the scheme, David commented: ‘It is superb to see our charitable funds being put to such marvellous use. It is often said, when accepting donations from lodges for the MCF that we thank the lodge on behalf of the recipients who they will never know or see.
'To hear first-hand of the difference the scheme is already making to the lives of others in helping them through the grieving process is really quite touching. It brings home the true ethos of charitable giving which is at the heart of our wonderful fraternity.’
One of those who has engaged with the program is George Last whose wife Linda passed away at the hospice Christmas time 2017. George was happy to talk about the benefits of ‘Make Do and Mend.’ George observed: ‘I come down once a week and have found it really beneficial. The company and the overall community feel of the workshop have helped me to come out of myself. I look forward to getting out of the house to come along and work on the cabinet I am recycling.
'It is self-supporting as we are all in the same boat. One of the other users has become a firm friend and we go for a coffee and a chat together after each session. I now have the confidence to go along with my daughter to the coffee evening which the hospice host on a Thursday evening. It has made a real difference to my life.’
The workshops are run on informal lines with a bereavement counsellor always on hand, but not obtrusively so. Such is the demand that the present sessions and the next series of sessions are fully booked.
But it is not only men who benefit. Olivia Armistead found it difficult to cope with the loss of all four of her grandparents in a short space of time. Olivia attends the workshop and took pride in showing Peter Schofield the kitchen cabinet she was working on as she told him how much the scheme had helped her.
Oscar Lynch, a reporter with the North West Evening Mail, has been welcomed to Barrow-in-Furness Masonic Hall by West Lancashire Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Grainger
Following the recent advert containing the letter ‘Enough is Enough’ issued by Dr David Staples in defence of the Craft, Oscar made contact and explained that he wanted to add a local perspective to the story.
The Province of West Lancashire was more than happy to oblige, and so David gave Oscar a guided tour of Barrow Lodge No. 3928. He gave an insight into the signification of some of the fixtures, fittings and symbols including the all-seeing eye.
The paper later published a full, four page feature article about Freemasonry and also took camcorder footage for inclusion. The article and video footage can be viewed here.
As Oscar commented: ‘Although the original aim of my coming here was to learn more about Freemasonry, I have now realised that the lodges and the artefacts they contain, are in fact a significant part of local history.’
No questions were out of bounds as David was interviewed by Oscar. It was also a source of pride to be able to dispel a number of myths including that only men of advanced years were Freemasons, with many younger men now joining the lodges in the Furness and South Lakeland group.
David later remarked: ‘The visit confirms that we are open about who we are and what we do. This will, in time, help dispel the discrimination and prejudice that exists in certain quarters.
'In the 19th and early part of the 20th century, the many local newspapers which were in circulation then carried full details of lodge installations and other important meetings. As we try to emulate those former days, let us hope that the day is not far off when all brethren can mention their membership of the Craft in any company safe from ill-informed criticism.’