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.’

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.'

Up to 60 children who are struggling due to trauma such as bereavement, family breakdown, bullying or domestic abuse will now receive help from Clear Sky Children’s Charity thanks to a £15,000 grant from Berkshire Freemasons via the Masonic Charitable Foundation

The charity currently operates in Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire and offer one to one support for children and joint play therapy sessions with children and their parents. They also support the wellbeing of children in schools by producing resources to train and support teachers so that they can help the children they teach.

Anna Hodgson, Captain of Clear Sky, said: 'Our children are facing a mental health crisis and we know how to help. Our aim is for all children to be happy, love life and enjoy school. This grant will enable us to provide one to one play and creative arts therapy for up to 60 children over the next three years.

'For every £1 spent on early intervention, it saves society £15 in the future. We are grateful to Berkshire Freemasons for their support in helping us towards our £80,000 fundraising target.'

Anthony Howlett-Bolton, the leader of Berkshire Freemasons, said: 'I am pleased that the Masonic Charitable Foundation have recognised the important contribution Clear Sky make to the wellbeing of children in our area and that this grant will be used to make a difference in young peoples’ lives. I encourage teachers to contact the charity as there will be children in your schools who would benefit from the support they offer.'

Maurice Dixon, who leads the newly proposed Didcot Masonic Lodge, and Keith Winterbone who leads Ingham Clark Lodge, visited the charity to find out more about their work and were treated to an example of play therapy by Becky Hill, Head of Therapeutic Thinking.

Maurice said: 'I have worked with young people and schools for many years and recognise that children face huge disadvantages if they do not receive help early on. Sophia (CEO “Chief of Enthusiasm & Optimism” and founder) has created a highly qualified team with a breadth of experience and the Didcot lodges are delighted to be able to support this local charity.'

Individuals and fundraisers can support the charity by going to their website here and making a donation.

A well-planned cooperative effort, ably supported by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), has enabled a significant £60,000 donation to be made to Thames Hospice, on behalf of the Freemasons of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire

This great example of fraternal cooperation resulted in a significant grant to support the construction of its new hospice in Bray near Maidenhead. 

After several weeks of planning, the Provincial Grand Masters of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, Anthony Howlett-Bolton and John Clark respectively, together with representatives of their Provincial Charities, met up with Debbie Raven, CEO of Thames Hospice, to formally present their combined donation in front of the site of the new hospice, which was from the Berkshire Masonic Charity, the Buckinghamshire Masonic Centenary Fund and the MCF.

Serving both Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, Thames Hospice opened in 1987 but is now no longer able to keep up with the increasing number of people who need their care and services. As well as the increase in numbers, the charity is dealing with more complex and challenging medical conditions and, as a result, the decision was taken to build a larger facility. In 2017, planning permission was given to construct a new state of the art facility on land donated to the charity near Bray Lake. Inpatient rooms will increase from 17 to 28 and there will be more dedicated space to treat outpatients as well as to provide therapeutic and other activities.

This new Thames Hospice will open in 2020, with the £60,000 donation helping towards the building of two dedicated rooms in the £22 million facility. These rooms will be quiet areas for reflection and remembering loved ones as well as offering help and advice to families.

After the presentation ceremony, Debbie Raven gave an outline of how Thames Hospice is developing and some of its future plans. Once the new building is complete, there will be a permanent reminder of the contributions that the Freemasons of the two Provinces have made.

Debbie commented: ‘I cannot thank the Freemasons enough for their generous support towards our new Hospice. The donation comes on top of several others from their charitable funds and the incredible support they have given over many years. It will make a significant difference to our patients and their families.'

Together with Debbie, both Provincial Grand Masters acknowledged the cooperation and support given to this collaborative donation by the MCF and the continuing work they do in supporting the Hospice movement in England and Wales.

Anthony Howlett-Bolton, Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire, said: ‘Working together with our fellow Freemasons in Buckinghamshire and the MCF has allowed us to make a significant contribution to Thames Hospice to help them in the wonderful work they are doing to help families across our counties.’

John Clark, Provincial Grand Master of Buckinghamshire, commented: ‘The Freemasons of Buckinghamshire are delighted to be part of this joint initiative supporting the essential work performed by Thames Hospice. We look forward to establishing a long and fruitful relationship with them.’

Following several months of building work, the new refurbished Berkshire Library and Museum of Freemasonry has been opened by their Provincial Grand Master Anthony Howlett-Bolton, in the presence of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton

Also in attendance for the opening was Dr Vicky Carroll, Director of the Museum of Freemasonry at Freemasons’ Hall in London, the Mayor of Wokingham and a number of invited guests.

The Library and Museum was started in 1896 at the Masonic Hall in Reading. It was created by the members of Grey Friars Lodge No. 1101 with assistance from members of other lodges in Reading. It was moved to the Berkshire Masonic Centre in Sindlesham in 1969, but space was not available, so all the contents were put into storage.

By 2002, a small, somewhat pokey, room was found and part of the contents were put on display, however, space was still at a premium, so the majority of the contents were kept in storage. This has all now been consolidated into two rooms in Sindlesham with state of the art display and racking with additional modern storage space developed elsewhere in the building.

When the Library and Museum moved to Sindlesham, it was funded by the sale of regalia donated to the Province and donations from individual masons and lodges. The then Librarian and Curator, Roger White, was still purchasing artefacts as when they became available so add to the collection.

The museum collections contain items of ceramics, glassware, regalia, jewels and a lot of other items such as horse brass, gavels, watches, paperweights, cufflinks and similar memorabilia. There is even have an American casket handle. There are about 3,500 items altogether some of which are more than 200 years old.

The library itself houses over 20,000 books on Freemasonry, including many rare editions – making the collection one of the largest in England. In addition to books, there are over 3,000 certificates, prints, postcards, photographs and other archival items, as well as a reference database in excess of 90,000 records. These collections continue to increase in size and provide a very valuable resource for reference and research by masons and non-masons alike.

Although the library was primarily established for the interest, education and information of its own members, it is also used by members of the general public wanting information on Freemasonry, or those researching the masonic membership of their ancestors. Equally, over the years, they have had a number of students using their resources to research materials for their academic degrees. 

Anthony Howlett-Bolton, Berkshire’s Provincial Grand Master, said: ‘Whilst it has been something of a rollercoaster challenge to bring this project to fruition over several years, I am delighted that we have now succeeded in establishing this new facility and indeed as a consequence the provision of disabled access throughout the whole building. 

‘All of this is a direct result of a very generous bequest from a former stalwart librarian Robin White whose unbounded enthusiasm resulted in the increase of the number of books from a few hundred to the sizeable number we hold today.’

Sir David Wootton, UGLE’s Assistant Grand Master, said: ‘In London, we are also of the firm view that it is important that we ensure that the history of Freemasonry and its rationale is more widely understood both by Freemasons and the wider community alike. To this end, we are taking significant steps to ensure that we play our part in raising the positive profile of Freemasonry with the full understanding that we have, have always had and will continue to have an important role to play in civil society as a whole. 

‘With this in mind, it is pleasing to see that you have taken the opportunity to rationalise and fresh these facilities so as to make them more accessible to all. I understand that you have firm plans in mind to ensure that the inter-connected Library and Museum are open on a regular basis for much wider use and that whilst your library catalogue is already online, you intend to explore further the use of modern technology to enhance the users experience.’

Berkshire Freemasons have made a generous donation of £6,400 to provide medical monitors to treat young children at Royal Berkshire Hospital

The funds will enable the Children’s' Wards in Royal Berkshire Hospital to purchase eight new monitors. This donation enables the two wards to have monitors are every bed as opposed to be eight short for monitoring every child. The monitors measure heart rates and oxygen levels.

The donation amounted to £6,400 and when combined with the toys donated to the children’s' wards at Christmas meant the total donated in the last four months is more than £11,000. This donation was made via the Berkshire Masonic Charity, which was set up to support good causes as well as the wider masonic family within the Province of Berkshire.

Susan Timperley, Matron for Paediatrics and Neonates, said: 'We are, as always, extremely grateful to the Berkshire Freemasons for their very generous donations. It doesn't matter if it's a toy, game or piece of medical equipment like these monitors, they all go to improving the stay of youngsters on our wards and make a big contribution to the work we do here.'

Anthony Howlett-Bolton, Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire, said: 'When we dropped off the Christmas gifts, we were talking to staff on the wards and asked 'What more can we do to help?'  They mentioned how useful it would be to have monitors at every bed, so we decided to support a funding bid to the Berkshire Masonic Charity which, after careful consideration, supported the application.

'It was a pleasure to visit the hospital, talk to staff and see how these monitors work and how they are such a valuable piece of equipment to will greatly assist the staff on the wards.'

Two hospices in Berkshire have received over £3,000 in grants from Berkshire Freemasons

Thames Hospice in Windsor received a grant of £1,650 and Alexander Devine Hospice in Maidenhead received a grant of £1,350. These are just two of 237 grants to hospices around the country from Freemasons. In total £600,000 will be donated to hospices all over England and Wales this year and, since 1984, contributions from Freemasons to hospices have exceeded £13 million.

Anthony Howlett-Bolton, the Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire, said: 'I’m very pleased we’ve been able to assist our local hospices. They do an outstanding job helping people with life threatening or life limiting conditions, as well as supporting their families through very difficult times.'

Thames Hospice is the local charity providing expert care for people living with life-limiting illnesses in East Berkshire and South Buckinghamshire. A vital part of their work is also supporting their families and carers. It costs £8 million every year to keep the hospice running. They rely on the community for over 50% of the funds they have to raise annually to provide their services free of charge, 365 days a year, to the people who need them most.

Debbie Raven, Chief Executive of Thames Hospice, said: 'We’re very grateful to Berkshire Freemasons for their generous grant, which will support patients who are accessing our Day Therapy Services. Art therapy activities include making artwork for patients’ families, which often become treasured items for their loved ones.'

Alexander Devine Children's Hospice Service now funds Alexander's Nurses, who support families across Berkshire in their own homes, providing much needed respite, palliative care, emotional and practical support. They are working towards building Berkshire's very own children's hospice for these local families which will be supported by a home care team.

Claire Coldicott, Director of Fundraising from Alexander Devine Children's Hospice Service said: 'This generous grant will enable us to provide 16 sessions of specially designed play activities that will make a huge difference to the emotional and physical well-being of the children we support.'

A charity providing life-saving support has received a cash donation of nearly £10,000 from Berkshire Freemasons

This huge sum was gathered through a series of contributions from Berkshire Freemasons and given to the Thames Valley Air Ambulance in January 2019.

The bulk of the funds were from the Masonic Charitable Foundation and the Berkshire Masonic Foundation, while further funds were being provided by individual lodges in Berkshire.

Anthony Howlett-Bolton, the Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire, said: 'We are thrilled to continue supporting the Thames Valley Air Ambulance. Thanks to the tireless efforts of their doctors, paramedics and pilots, many lives of people in the Thames Valley are saved every year.'

Freemasons are very large contributors to the air ambulance charities; Berkshire Freemasons have contributed over £75,000 in the last ten years. Nationally, the contributions are in excess of £2 million.

Thames Valley Air Ambulance operates across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, providing frontline emergency car using four rapid response vehicles and one air ambulance.

Neil Harman, Director of Fundraising for Thames Valley Air Ambulance, said: 'We are very grateful to Berkshire Freemasons for their continuing generosity. Without support like this our crew would not be able to provide advance critical care and our life-saving work could not continue.'

For the fourth year running, Berkshire Freemasons have organised a toy appeal for underprivileged children, who are under the care of Reading Family Aid, and those seriously ill children in the three children’s wards at Royal Berkshire Hospital

With the support from the Provincial Grand Master Anthony Howlett-Bolton, the appeal was funded by a £6,000 grant from the Berkshire Masonic Charity (BMC). In addition to the financial support from the BMC, volunteers to deliver and purchase the toys came from several lodges within Berkshire.

The planning for this event started in October 2018 and once the orders were received, the sourcing of the toys began and following many diligent hours in front of a computer, several hundred different toys were ordered. The next step was the long task of cross-checking and boxing the toys up for delivery.

The first batch of toys were delivered to Reading Family Aid on 3rd December 2018. Reading Family Aid have over 1,700 children under their supervision throughout the Reading area and Ruth Perkins, chair of the charity, was overwhelmed by this support from Berkshire Freemasons. 

The toys for Royal Berkshire Hospital were delivered on Monday 17th December 2018 and on Christmas Day, they were given to children in the Lion and Dolphin Wards and the Buscot Baby unit. There was a huge range of toys, as well as computer games through to old-fashioned board games. The matron and nursing staff were overwhelmed by the generosity and the children and their families thoroughly enjoyed their individual gifts.

Emma Stone, from Royal Berkshire Hospital said: ‘These were wonderful gifts that help make Christmas Day for those children who had to spend it in hospital. Thank you for your generosity and thoughtfulness.’

An impromptu meeting was held underwater between three lodges at the bottom of The National Diving & Activity Centre on 14th October 2018

Michael Wilson, Senior Warden and Master Elect of Ashley Lodge No. 6525 in Dorset, donned his diving gear to meet with Luke Sibley, Master of Arthurian Lodge No. 5658 in the Province of Hampshire & Isle of Wight, and John DeLara, Past Master of the Loyal Berkshire Lodge of Hope No. 574 in Berkshire, to help Michael celebrate his 70th Birthday at a depth of 70 metres for 70 minutes, whilst raising funds for the charity DDRC Healthcare, the Diving Diseases Research Centre in Plymouth.

In the event, the depth and duration were slightly exceeded with 71.2 metres for 78 minutes. The temperature at the bottom of the quarry was 6C and on the wind and rain swept surface it was a balmy 15C. Following the dive, refreshments comprised numerous mugs of hot chocolate and lashings of Old Jamaica ginger cake soaked in rum and cream. 

To date, over £400 has been donated to DDRC Healthcare by the British Sub-Aqua Lodge No. 8997, Ashley Lodge, Arthurian Lodge, Loyal Berkshire Lodge of Hope and Fins and Flippers Swim School in Poole, Dorset.

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