Despite its small size, the Province of Shropshire knows how to punch well above its weight. Back in 2014 when the then Provincial Grand Master Peter Taylor launched a Festival for the Province (the fifth smallest of the 48 Provinces) its 1,200 members found themselves facing the challenge of raising no less than £1 million over the following five years

Undaunted, the then 34, although now 36, Lodges inspired their members to rise to that challenge magnificently.

Under the chairmanship of the provincial grand charity steward, Simon Aucott, a Festival Fundraising Committee organised, co-ordinated and supported the work of the lodge charity stewards throughout the Province in finding ever more inventive ways by which they, their families and friends might go about raising the vital contribution to the work of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF).

Members of the Province jumped out of aircraft, held promise auctions, went on a group cycle ride from Telford to Rotterdam, held dinners, garden parties and wine tastings. There were christmas fairs and a spectacular concert. The Provincial Director of Ceremonies organised a competition for members to guess his annual mileage on masonic business during a single year; the answer was tens of thousands!

And just to prove that the having wheels is not the only way of fundraising, international walking champion Roger Michell walked between all the lodges of the Province to present a travelling Maul which then accompanied him and his wife Linda on a walk from Freemasons' Hall in Shrewsbury to Freemasons' Hall in Great Queen Street for quarterly communication in June 2019, where Roger's achievement of walking over 1,000 miles was recogised by the Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes. UGLE donated £1,000 to the appeal.

Eventually, the appeal came to a close and at a spectacular gala celebration event at the Telford International Centre, organised by the festval celebration committee chaired by Melvin Gough, the final total was revealed: an astonishing £1,217,094! This is the second highest per capita contribution ever made to the MCF. The Provincial Grand Master went on to praise the efforts of everyone who had worked so hard over the period of the Festival, singling out in particular the committee chairman and the festival treasurer, Dennis Hill.

The Gala was a brilliant celebration of all the efforts of the many Freemasons, families and friends and was attended by 580 people, including HM Lord Lieutenant in Shropshire, Anna Turner, and civic dignitaries as well as other guests including the Assistant Grand Master, Sir David Wootton, and the President of the MCF, Richard Hone, and Chief Operating Officer, Les Hutchinson. Shropshire Freemasons were proud to welcome them all and to showcase who they are and what they do in the community. In addition to the sumptuous dinner, guests were entertained by magicians and singing waiters to add to the special evening.

Shropshire won't be required to hold another Festival until 2030, but the fundraising efforts won't stop any time soon: the Province, Lodges and indivdual Freemasons will build on the experience gained over the period of the Festival to continue to raise funds for many local charities, as they have over many years. Although there may be fewer parachute jumps by the Provincial Grand Master!

People who have lost everything in the catastrophic Australian bushfires will be among those to benefit from a grant of AUS $150,000 from the Masonic Charitable Foundation to the Disaster Relief Funds set up by Australian Freemasons

The grant from the English and Welsh Freemasons’ charity will see $50,000 given to the Australian Freemasons’ Disaster Relief Funds in each of the three states most affected by the blaze, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

The unprecedented fires have seen 27 deaths, including a number of firefighters. 2,136 homes have been destroyed in New South Wales alone, more than 1,200 of which have burned down since New Year’s Eve. Thousands of Australians are living in more than a dozen large evacuation centres, having been forced to flee the blaze.

Meanwhile hundreds of homes and businesses have been lost in Victoria and South Australia. Many Australians have lost everything and the impact on the livelihoods of ordinary people is vast. The economy will take many years to fully recover.

An estimated 18 million acres of land have been burned – an area almost as large as Ireland. There has been an enormous impact on the environment, with up to a billion animals being killed. The death toll among koala bears alone has led to calls for the animals to be placed on the endangered species list.

The Masonic Charitable Foundation is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

David Innes, Chief Executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, said: 'These terrible fires are an ongoing disaster for thousands of Australians. I’m very pleased that English and Welsh Freemasons are working together with Freemasons in Australia to raise funds to help the victims of the blazes, many of whom have lost everything.'

Families of children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions across Berkshire will receive counselling and support, thanks to a grant of £63,000 to the Sebastian’s Action Trust charity from Berkshire Freemasons

Sebastian’s Action Trust provides family support and bereavement care tailored towards improving mental and physical health for children and their families. The charity offers responsive, accessible support for families who are facing either the imminent death or eventual loss of a child. This includes talking and counselling sessions together with one-to-one and group sessions to accommodate the family’s unmet needs.

There are currently 49,000 children with life-limiting or life threatening conditions in the UK – Sebastian’s Action Trust supports 127 families in the county of Berkshire. The Trust offers emotional, practical and social support to families in Berkshire, Surrey, Hampshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, delivering outreach support to roughly 500 families.

The grant from Berkshire Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales. 

Jane Gates OBE, Sebastian’s Action Trust’s CEO, said: ‘We’re very grateful to Berkshire Freemasons for their generous grant, There can be no more critical time in the life of a family than the diagnosis of a life-threatening or life-limiting condition in one of its members and their subsequent death – and how much worse when it is a child. We may not be able to add days to lives, but with the help of Berkshire freemasons, we will be able to add life to days.’

Peter Sands, Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire, said: ‘I’m very pleased we’ve been able to help Sebastian’s Action Trust. Giving the right kind of support to family members going through the darkest and most challenging of times can make a huge difference.’

Hundreds of children with mental or emotional health issues will receive the therapy they need, thanks to a £15,000 grant from Cambridgeshire Freemasons to the charity Blue Smile

Blue Smile works with children between 3 and 13 years old, who may experience difficulties such as anxiety, self-harm or obsessive-compulsive behaviours. They are given a weekly session with an expert therapist, based on arts and play, providing support for each child for as long as they need it. During term time, Blue Smile helps around 200 children every week.

In Cambridgeshire, roughly one in eight children have a diagnosable mental health condition, which equates to each class in a Cambridgeshire school having three affected children. The county has an estimated 13,900 children and young people under the age of 16 with mental health issues, which is the highest in the East of England and a higher percentage than England as a whole, which has 400,000 under 16s who were referred to the NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in the last year.

Blue Smile aims to intervene when a child has emerging mental health difficulties, particularly those who have suffered trauma such as abuse, bereavement or domestic violence. Through this, they aim to prevent problems worsening and protect each child's ability to stay in school and participate fully in school life. Half of all lifetime mental health problems emerge by the age of 14, so by supporting children who are experiencing difficulties, the charity believes that it can give them the best possible chance of recovery.

The grant from Cambridgeshire Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

Jess Manley, Charity Director of Blue Smile, said: 'We're very grateful to Cambridgeshire Freemasons for their generous grant, which will help us to offer support to hundreds of children every week during term time. Often people don't realise the scale of this issue, with, on average, three children in every class being affected by mental health difficulties.'

Pat Kilby, from Cambridgeshire Freemasons, said: 'I'm very pleased we've been able to help Blue Smile with their hugely important work. By getting to children early on, they can give them the support they need to prevent problems worsening, and protect each child's ability to stay in school and participate fully in school life.

'Their work is quite literally life-changing.'

Freemasonry in Lincolnshire will take a higher profile next summer thanks to the decision to sponsor an Imp on the latest trail which will be launched in Lincoln – the same year as they embark on their 2025 Festival

The cost of the project will be shared with the Masonic Charitable Foundation. By a formal commitment to sponsorship, wheels will be soon in motion to decide how the Imp will be painted and where it will be sited. Moreover, it will be soon decided what information regarding Freemasonry will be included in a promotional leaflet and an app about the Imp trail.

Provincial Grand Master Dave Wheeler said: 'Sponsorship of an Imp was appropriate since the trail, being organised by the Lincoln Business Improvement Group (Lincoln BIG) was in support of St Barnabas Hospice. Freemasonry was a long-term supporter of the hospice movement both nationally and locally.'

Additionally, the sponsorship arrangement coincides with the first year of the 5-years Lincoln Festival.

Dave added: 'We were one of the earliest to commit to Imp sponsorship, and we have done so because we believe that people aren't generally aware of the financial support provided by Freemasonry to the broader community. It's time for us to share that story more widely, and as the statistics from earlier trails demonstrate, this is a high-profile way to do it.

'It's important to understand that Freemasons' charities gave almost £400,000 to good causes in Lincolnshire in 2018/19, a contribution to the millions donated by Freemasons nationally – more than £48m in 2018 alone – all from personal donations.

'The public will be able to see, through our donations and our work with the Masonic Charitable Foundation, that every year Freemasonry gives substantial sums of money to worthwhile causes in Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire, and North-East Lincolnshire.' 

The Imp trail gets its formal launch in the city on 4th July 2020 and will be 'open' until mid-September. After that, the Imps will be auctioned, with the funds being given to the Hospice.

Lincoln BIG Chief Executive Sarah Loftus said: 'We have discovered these types of trails have a substantial public appeal. They attract whole families, create fantastic photographic opportunities and do their bit in encouraging people to get out and about.'

A grant of £4,000 to the Thames Valley Air Ambulance from Berkshire Freemasons has been added to the total masonic support of £2.4 million given to air ambulances across the country since 2007

Apart from this grant, which comes from the Masonic Charitable Foundation, The Berkshire Masonic Charity has contributed over £4,500 to help patients with breathing difficulties. These donations and many others bring the total contribution to Thames Valley Air Ambulance by Freemasons over the last few years to £132,000.

Thames Valley Air Ambulance operates across Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire bringing advanced medical care to the most critically ill and injured patients. Between 1st October 2018 and 30th September 2019, the helicopter and Critical Care Response Vehicles responded to 2670 incidents in the region; 1013 of these were in Berkshire. They delivered advanced medical care to 1,667 patients.

Neil Harman, Director of Fundraising at Thames Valley Air Ambulance, said: 'We are very grateful to Berkshire Freemasons for their continuing generosity. Without support like this our teams of doctors, paramedics and pilots would not be able to continue delivering our life-saving work.'

Anthony Howlett-Bolton, Leader of Berkshire Freemasons, said: 'We are proud to be able to support the Thames Valley Air Ambulance. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the crew, many lives of local people are saved every year.'

Whilst on a visit to the House of Lords Ian Kingsbury, Provincial Grand Master for Devonshire Freemasons, was inspired by a presentation given by Steve Morton, Director of Development for the Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education

Outlining the Academy’s aims and development plans for the future academy, which is to be relocated to a new site in Exmouth, - Ian was inspired so much so that he came back to Devonshire with the desire to help those who are affected by this very difficult sensory disability. To this end, he approached the Devonshire Freemasons Benevolent Fund Committee for help, and they immediately responded by giving him a cheque for £5,000.

Following their visit to meet Steve Morton in October 2018 there has been an approach to the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) who have agreed further funding of £28,380 to equip a Multi-Sensory Immersive Space within the new centre in Exmouth, bringing the total donated to £33,380. 

Dr Reuben Ayres, Devonshire Provincial Grand Charity Steward, accompanied by Clive Eden, visited the Deaf Academy. Here they met up again with Steve Morton and Appeals Manager Sarah Shaw and presented them with a certificate denoting the £28,380 which is going to support the wonderful work undertaken by the Academy.

Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education has been located in Exeter for over 190 years and the current location is a property purchased many years ago which is no longer fit for the needs of the deaf students. The property and the land has now been sold and the proceeds will partially fund the new academy which is being been built with all the latest facilities available to the architects, to give the students what they really require.

All the students have additional needs, including multi-sensory disabilities, autism, epilepsy, and physical disabilities which is why, when designing the new building so much thought has gone into making each part of the facility user friendly. It is planned that completion of the new building will be by Easter 2020.

When presenting the certificate, Dr. Reuben Ayres said: ‘Young people all need us to be there to help them grow for the future, none more so than those with a lack of hearing who are denied the normal things that we take so much for granted in the world we live in.’

When receiving the certificate Steve Morton said: ‘We are extremely grateful for the ongoing support from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Devonshire and now the Masonic Charitable Foundation. Without the support of generous organisations like these we wouldn’t be able to change the lives of some of the most vulnerable Deaf young people in UK.

‘Our work helps young people, who have often been isolated in the past, to access education and opportunities for development which ultimately will enable them to have more independent lives. The immersive room is there to help those facing the greatest challenges to benefit from our work and Ian, Reuben and their fellow Freemasons have played a large part in making that a reality.’

Somerset’s Deputy Provincial Grand Master Ben Batley had been looking for something special to leave a ‘Masonic Footprint’ around the Province to mark its charitable giving

It was then on a visit to Freemasons' Hall in London that he came up with the answer – a plaque recently unveiled by the Duke of Kent to commemorate the opening of the Masonic Charitable Foundation's refurbished offices, suitably adapted, would be perfect

Following consultation with the plaques designers and the MCF, Somerset’s new ‘Masonic Footprint’ was created.

The first plaque was installed in Somerset at the headquarter offices of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme for the county at Hestercombe House. This was to mark a donation of £16,500 given over three years as a bursary fund by Somerset Freemasons to enable disadvantaged and vulnerable participants to take part.

Ben Batley commented: 'We are delighted with the result. Whenever we make a charitable donation, our ‘Masonic Footprint’ will be left with the charity to encourage engagement with the public about the good works that we do.'

Staffordshire’s Provincial Grand Master John Lockley endorsed and launched a unique advertising campaign to support the Masonic Charitable Foundation and the work they do to help communities throughout England and Wales with donations to local charities

A large advert has been placed on the side of an articulated trailer owned by local Freemason Danny Poole who runs a specialist chilled food distribution and transport business based in Stoke on Trent.

This giant trailer is decorated in specially commissioned MCF colours and branding and has been launched on the roads of the UK and Europe – in particular England, France, Germany and Belgium.

The idea was generated by Danny and his wife Jackie. Danny approached the Staffordshire MCF Representative Andrew Tomblin and generously offered a trailer for decoration in full MCF colours to carry the masonic message of Charity For All across the country and into Europe.  These trailers never stand still and rather like aircraft are out there somewhere constantly working and being seen by all.

Andrew took the idea and discussed the plan with the MCF marketing department team, which resulted in the creation of the new artwork designed to carry the Masonic message across the entire length of the trailer and the rear doors. The vehicle is breathtakingly large and very eye catching and will take Freemasonry’s caring message far and wide.

John Lockley said: ‘Many thanks to Danny and Jackie for their great idea and for allowing the use of this magnificent vehicle to help Staffordshire Freemasons promote the Masonic Charitable Foundation, nationally and internationally.’

To tackle daily problems caused by loneliness and isolation, such as financial hardship, decline in physical or mental well-being or life transitions including retirement and bereavement, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) launched a £1 million three-year partnership with Age UK in 2018 to fund a new project called ‘Later Life Goals’

Thanks to this project, Age UK advisers have been helping older people identify their goals for later life. So far, the project has supported over 2,370 older people.

There are 3.6 million older people in the UK, of whom over two million are over 75 years of age and live alone. The downside effects of loneliness on human body is equivalent to harm caused by 15 cigarettes a day which makes it even worse than obesity.

Research over loneliness shows that it is associated with a 50% increase in mortality from any cause. According to Age UK, it is associated with depression, sleep problems, impaired cognitive health, heightened vascular resistance, hypertension, psychological stress and mental health problems.

Age UK Solihull in Warwickshire, one of 13 branches in this project, has been working closely with Knowle Masonic Centre (KMC). During the summer, Keith Reynolds, Deputy Chairman of KMC, presented Anne Hastings, CEO of Age UK Solihull, the certificate sent by MCF granting £63,000 as part of the 3-year partnership. The level of co-operation between KMC and Age UK Solihull goes even beyond funding projects. KMC had gladly welcomed Age UK Solihull to have their regular meetings and social gatherings at KMC’s premises.

Futhermore, Age UK Solihull has initiated a significant service called ‘Linking People Together’ which aims at promoting individual independence, confidence and well-being. The service calls on volunteers to visit and befriend older people in their local areas. Volunteers are expected to create a personal connection with an older person who could be homebound or suffering from a long-term disease or having no family living locally. Volunteers can befriend someone either by phoning at an agreed time for a chat or by visiting them at their home.

It is also possible to accompany them to an activity or appointment. KMC is delighted to be part of this partnership and committed to support Age UK Solihull. To contribute the project, members of the KMC are encouraged to participate with their families.

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