A golden and unique Masonic evening took place on 22nd November, at the always welcoming Derwent Lodge No. 4250 in the village of Chopwell, which saw over £10,000 donated to the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS)
This was achieved through the collective charitable efforts of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) and Durham Benevolence, as well the efforts of Derwent Lodge itself.
Assistant Provincial Grand Master John Watts was in attendance to firstly recognise the charitable efforts of Derwent Lodge and proudly presented Ken Cook, the Lodge Charity Steward, a well-deserved Gold Award on behalf of the Province for meeting their Durham 2021 festival five-year target in only 22 months.
Durham Freemasons and, in particular, Derwent Lodge have a strong charitable association with the GNAAS and upon closing the Lodge, Ben McWilliams of the GNAA then gave a short presentation in the Lodge room regarding their work. He played a specially recorded video where the Director of Operations at the GNAAS thanked Derwent Lodge and Durham Freemasons for their ongoing support towards this crucial service.
John Watts then had the privilege, on behalf of the MCF, to present Ben McWilliams with a £4,000 grant as well as an additional £1,000 on behalf of Provincial Grand Lodge Durham to contribute towards the next generation of motor vehicles, to assist them with their life-saving work on both land and in the air.
Keith Walker, Derwent Lodge Treasurer, also presented GNASS with an additional £5,300 which had been raised through the support of Lodge members and friends at the annual Derwent Lodge Barbeque. This special event has increased in attendance from 37 to 141 people in the five years that it has been in existence and is now widely supported by the Lodge members, other local Freemasons and the business community.
As part of their Tercentenary celebrations, Cumberland and Westmorland Freemasons have donated a brand new fully equipped and liveried motorcycle to Blood Bikes Cumbria to support them in their vital work across Cumbrian communities
The bike carries the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland’s provincial emblem and the square and compasses symbol.
Since May 2014, Blood Bikes Cumbria have provided an out of hours, 365 days a year transport service for urgently needed blood, drugs, human tissue and other medical requirements between hospitals, medical centres and blood banks across Cumbria. The Great North Air Ambulance Service also receives supplies daily to keep their helicopters stocked.
Blood Bikes Cumbria is run entirely by volunteers, the drivers all undergo specialist advanced training to operate the bikes under ‘blue light’ conditions. There is also a specialist team of volunteer dispatchers who take calls and co-ordinate the deliveries.
At a special presentation evening in Kendal, the motorcycle was handed over to a team of drivers from Blood Bikes Cumbria by Past Pro Grand Master The Marquess of Northampton and Provincial Grand Master, Rt W Bro Norman James Thompson DL.
W Bro Thompson said: ‘The Freemasons of Cumberland and Westmorland are delighted to be able to support this relatively new charity who do vital work for our Cumbrian communities, often behind the scenes.
‘Our brethren and families will be pleased to see this motorcycle put to good work for the benefit of all who need emergency medical supplies in the county.’
A day of festivities at the Raby Gala
The Gala was officially opened with the X Company Fifth Fusiliers band marching into the main arena followed by a horse and carriage transporting Provincial Grand Master Norman Heaviside, Festival Director John Thompson and MCF Chief Operating Officer Les Hutchinson.
Great North Air Ambulance director of charity services Deborah Lewis-Bynoe received a cheque for £4,000 from the MCF. Norman presented Les with a cheque for £250,000, bringing the total donated, just six months in
to the Festival, to £1 million.
Durham tries again
There is nothing like healthy sporting rivalry between Provinces, and so it proved when Durham masonic rugby team took to the field at Darlington RFC in an exciting rematch against the reigning champions, Northumberland
Last year Durham had only eight players but returned with 25 recruits to win 36-29. Durham club chairman Andrew Dixon said: ‘My two great passions of rugby and Freemasonry came together today with a spread from right across the Province – several Durham lodges and nearly as many rugby clubs were represented.’ A raffle and the sale of refreshments raised £600 for the club’s charity for this year, the Great North Air Ambulance Service.
As smaller charities struggle in the current economic climate, Tabby Kinder finds out how Freemasons on a local and national level are keeping community projects in business
In 2012, donations to charity in the UK fell by twenty per cent, with £1.7bn less being given by British people between 2011 and 2012.
A report by the Charities Aid Foundation and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations suggests that small and medium sized charities are suffering most as voluntary donations – rather than National Lottery or state funding – tend to make up a larger proportion of their total income. The report, which surveyed 3,000 people, says that charities in Britain now face a ‘deeply worrying’ financial situation.
The Freemasons recognise the importance of supporting smaller charities. These charities may be small, but their projects and services can provide lifelines for people – meeting very specific needs that fulfil priorities often overlooked by the public sector and larger charities.
Since 1981 The Freemasons’ Grand Charity has donated more than £50 million to national charities, with grants going towards funding medical research, helping vulnerable people and supporting youth opportunities. It now sets aside £100,000 every year for small donations of between £500 and £5,000 to under-funded causes around the country, which often prove vital to their continued operation.
The charity’s allocation for providing minor grants to small charities doubled from £50,000 to £100,000 in 2010 following a marked increase in the number of applications the charity was receiving from smaller organisations. ‘It was clear that the increase in applications was a result of the economic climate, with smaller charities finding themselves worse off,’ says Laura Chapman, Chief Executive of the Grand Charity, pleased by the decision to increase the grant budget. ‘It meant we could reach out to more smaller charities, making a bigger impact during what has clearly been a difficult year.’
Helping small and community-focused causes is not just the domain of the Grand Charity. Local Provinces and lodges donated a huge amount to charity in 2012, around £5 million of which was reported by local newspapers. ‘Freemasons are community-minded and this is demonstrated by the local lodges that frequently donate to smaller charities,’ says Laura.
Neil Potter, Provincial Information Officer at the Provincial Grand Lodge of Nottinghamshire, believes that contributing to small causes is not only hugely beneficial to the community, but is also a way for Freemasons to show what they stand for.
‘Charitable giving is a great opportunity to break down the barriers that seem to have been put up over the years regarding the public and masonic relationship, and to let everyone know exactly what we do,’ says Neil. ‘Our main concern is helping people who are less fortunate than us – and it all comes from the members’ pockets. We make voluntary contributions, hold fundraising events and enjoy doing it.’
Freemasonry Today spoke to four charities that have received invaluable financial support from Freemasons in 2012.
‘The grant we received from the Freemasons is being used in the rehabilitation through sports training programmes’ Edwin Thomas
The British Ex-Services Wheelchair Sports Association
Funded by the Grand Charity
The British Ex-Services Wheelchair Sports Association (BEWSA) enables injured ex-service personnel to take part in sports, building friendship and camaraderie. BEWSA describes itself as ‘not an organisation for the disabled, but of the disabled’.
‘The Grand Charity has long supported charities that provide help and assistance to ex-members of the Armed Services,’ says the Grand Charity’s Laura Chapman. ‘It is a popular cause within Freemasonry. Through our minor grant funding we aim to support small charities that fulfil needs not easily accessible elsewhere, just like BEWSA.’
In May last year, the Grand Charity donated £1,500 to the charity, enabling nationwide support to continue for active disabled veterans. ‘The grant we received from the Freemasons is being used in the rehabilitation through sports training programmes,’ says Edwin Thomas, BEWSA chairman.
One weekend a month, the charity books the sport facilities at the Defence College of Aeronautical Engineering RAF centre in Cosford, West Midlands, and ex-service wheelchair users are invited to join in wheelchair sporting events.
‘If they are comfortable in their chosen sport and wish to take training to the next level, then BEWSA is there to provide the encouragement, the training and the sports equipment required to participate,’ says Thomas.
Funded by the Grand Charity
‘JustDifferent is a perfect example of a small organisation carrying out big work,’ says Laura. Toby Hewson, who has cerebral palsy, founded the charity to change social attitudes towards disability. It runs workshops in schools that are delivered by disabled young adults employed by the charity.
‘Today’s young people are tomorrow’s employers, policymakers and educators. JustDifferent believes that changing attitudes in the young is the best way to achieve long-term social change,’ says Laura.
‘Harassment, bullying and discrimination are all sadly part of our society,’ says Karen McLachlan, fundraiser at JustDifferent. ‘The workshops give young people the capacity to challenge discrimination. Our work encourages and educates young people to be understanding and tolerant.’
JustDifferent has received acclaim for its techniques and schoolchildren engage with the workshop presenters with open-minded enthusiasm. Katie, a Year Six pupil, told the workshop presenter: ‘At first I felt sorry for you, but by the end of the workshop I felt more confident to talk to people like you. It changed my attitude towards disabled people.’
A grant of £5,000 made to the charity in May has helped the workshop reach 1,388 children.
‘To teach young people that disabled people can achieve, participate and lead is the ultimate goal of JustDifferent – and this is something the Grand Charity is very happy to support,’ says Laura.
Great North Air Ambulance Service
Funded by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Durham
Durham Freemasons have provided regular funding for the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) over the years. While GNAAS has become a leading healthcare charity, its funding relies entirely on voluntary donations. ‘We receive no lottery or government funding, but we’re proud to say that when we receive donations, one hundred per cent goes towards providing the life-saving service,’ says Mandy Drake, deputy director of public liaison at the charity.
Michael Graham, Provincial Information Officer at Durham, believes support for the charity comes from a personal feeling within the Province: ‘With many lodges in rural areas, a lot of our members have first-hand experience of, or have witnessed, the amazing job that air ambulances do,’ he says. ‘Our members are always very keen to support GNAAS.’
Michael estimates that the Durham Province has donated more than £25,000 to GNAAS. ‘We purchased two rapid response vehicles at around £12,000 each, and the Mark Degree bought another, so there are three units that are totally funded by the Freemasons,’ he says proudly.
Funding air ambulance charities is a very popular cause with Freemasons, demonstrated by the Grand Charity’s air ambulance grant programme, which is strongly supported throughout the Provinces.
The Lenton Centre
Funded by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Nottinghamshire
Around twenty per cent of the charities supported by the Nottinghamshire Province in 2012 had lost council funding. This was true of The Lenton Centre, a swimming pool and community leisure facility that Nottingham City Council decided to close down due to budget cuts, despite strong local opposition.
Following a campaign, The Lenton Community Association took over the centre, with funding from private donors and charitable organisations. The centre is run as a social enterprise and last year received £20,000 from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Nottinghamshire to fund a multi-use children’s area.
‘It’s a charity that we consider is doing a lot to help local people,’ says Neil Potter, Provincial Information Officer in the Province. ‘With local authorities having such restraints on their budgets, they find it increasingly difficult to support local charities, so our involvement in the community is becoming more important each month.’
Nicci Robinson, project manager of the children and young people’s team based at the centre, says the donation will help create a games area that can be used for sports such as football and cricket. ‘It’s a substantial chunk of what we need. The money has helped get a long-held dream off the ground.
It has kept us going through a very difficult time, while also aiding development and keeping our other activities for young people going.’
‘With local authorities having restraints on their budgets, our involvement in the community is more important’ Neil Potter
Letters to the editor - No. 22 Summer 2013
Sir, it was most interesting to read the article by Tabby Kinder, but more especially to note the ‘coinage’ on the collection plate – these consisted of fifty-, twenty-, ten- and two-pence pieces, with a few £1 coins. It reminded me of having motored from Durham to Cumbria with a brother so that my friend might obtain permission to send around a plate at the Festive Board for his particular charity.
On the journey home I mentioned that I thought he would have collected more than the £74 he gained, there having been approximately seventy members present. He was rather displeased at my comment saying that he would have been happy with only £7.
I had meant to make an observation rather than a criticism, however. I cannot help but remember that when I joined Freemasonry in 1978 it seemed a customary donation was £1 for the then known alms. Yet, the vast percentage of Freemasons still put £1 in the collection these days. Compared to those days, £1 can’t buy you a cinema ticket, a pint of beer and so on, but £1 in the collection is still the norm? I agree with the remarks Neil Potter of Nottingham makes but I know we could and should do better.
Arranging the opportunity to present cheques to the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) resulted in a very pleasant interlude for a group of Durham Freemasons at the distinctive Rockcliffe Hall Hotel at Hurworth near Darlington. The Provincial Grand Master Eric Heaviside was joined by Assistant Provincial Grand Master John Webster and Provincial Grand Secretary Phil Rann, plus 3 representatives of Agricola Lodge No. 7741 as cheques totalling £8,000 were presented.
This combined fund-raising and thank you reception was held in the magnificent setting that is the hotel's Victorian building and grounds, and recognised its own association with GNAAS – the hotel's favoured charity.
The sequence of events included an explanation of how the Air Ambulance is both funded and administered, some harrowing case histories and innovative money-raising ideas. It was hoped that one of the aircraft from nearby Durham Tees Valley Airport would make an appearance, and eventually the late morning sun dispersed the lingering mists and allowed GNHAA to land in the grounds. Everyone was able to meet the crew and examine the aircraft in detail.
Mandy Drake, deputy director of fundraising for GNAAS, said: 'Once again we find ourselves indebted to the Freemasons who have come forward with yet another generous donation.
'As a mark of gratitude for their ongoing support we have added the Freemasons’ logo onto our aircraft.'
Agricola Lodge members Trevor Dent, Philip Twizell and current Worshipful Master Richard Tait were thanked for their contribution of £3,000. This resulted from the sale of refreshments at their handily located premises in Old Elvet on Durham Miners' Gala days, with a further £4,000 from the Freemasons' Grand Charity and £1,000 from Durham Benevolence.
In summer 2008, Durham Province was selected by the Freemasons’ Grand Charity to trial a match-funding scheme of up to £5,000 for a local charity.
In only a few months, lodges and individual masons throughout the province raised £10,000 in excess of the £5 million target, which was made up to £20,000 by the Grand Charity.
During the 2008 Provincial meeting, GNAAS members attended and expressed their wish to purchase a road vehicle, to be equipped similar to the GNAAS aircraft for use by the medical air crew when technical or weather conditions prevented the helicopter taking off .
A new vehicle was out of reach, but when a six-month old Skoda VRS Octavia Cleveland police traffic car became available, it was purchased and rebranded with the GNAAS logo – as well as a square and compass logo ‘Donated by Freemasons’ on the rear windows.
A further appeal by Durham Mark Provincial Grand Master Peter Croft to the Mark Masons Fund of Benevolence resulted in them purchasing outright a second vehicle.