A plaque has been unveiled at Warrington Hospital thanking Cheshire masons for donating nearly 6,000 teddies over the past 14 years to the children’s A&E department as part of its Teddies for Loving Care appeal

Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Mel Pickup said: ‘The teddies are a valuable tool to the staff, bringing comfort to children in distress.’ 

Stephen Blank, PGM for Cheshire, and Kevin Poynton, AGM for West Lancashire, represented their respective Provinces at the event.

Young people in Leicester not in employment, education or training (NEETS) are to be helped into work thanks to a £35,000 grant from Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons

Around 250 young NEETs between the ages of 11-24, many of whom are also homeless, involved in substance misuse and crime, will be helped by TwentyTwenty through their Journey to Work programme over three years.

These are young disadvantaged people who have failed at school, through being excluded or not being able to engage with mainstream education. They exist in a demoralised state, feeling neglected and without a meaningful future. Being able to come to TwentyTwenty they will gain not only the maths, English and employability skills they need to find and keep a good job but also the vision and confidence to go out and get one.

Young people who come to TwentyTwenty face a wide range of personal and social needs: poor physical and mental health, learning disabilities (many on the autistic spectrum), caring responsibilities (including teenage motherhood), lack of decent housing, family criminality, gross economic disadvantage, low level drug addiction and a complete lack of societal or family support.

Through intensive one-to-one support from a Journey to Work Coach and Tutor, the young people will undergo an eight-month programme of education, life and work skills, work experience and counselling. These will prepare them for either work or further education, during which they will be supported by volunteer mentors.

Mark Vyner, CEO from TwentyTwenty said: 'We’re very grateful for this generous grant from Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, which will allow us to help hundreds of young people to turn their lives around and see a real reduction in the numbers of local people without jobs.'

The grant from Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation.

David Hagger, Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland, said: 'We’re very pleased to be able to help TwentyTwenty who are doing outstanding work giving hope and practical help to young people who have had a terrible start in life, by breaking the cycle of worklessness.'

'We have to get out there and tell the general public all about Freemasonry', is the constant theme hammered home by Robert Vaughan, Provincial Grand Master of Worcestershire – and it inspired the Lodge of St Michael No. 1097 to set up a stand at the Annual Countryside Show in their home town of Tenbury Wells

The result was a healthy interest among visitors of the Masonic items on show and six potential new lodge members.

'We are delighted,' said Past Master John Rawlings, 'we were able to show Freemasonry in its true light and destroy some of the myths surrounding the Craft.'

The venture also threw up two remarkable coincidencies. A member of the Tenbury Show from the off in 1858 – and almost certainly one of the founders – was John Barber, who was also a founder of the St Michael Lodge in 1866. John Barber was a prominent dignitary in those Victorian times – a Master of Arts, a justice of the peace (JP), and from, 1866 to 1871, Deputy Grand Master of Worcestershire.

There is even a stained glass window dedicated to him at a church in nearby Knighton-on-Teme. It bears the square and compasses and was presented to the church by the Province of Worcestershire and the members of St Michael’s Lodge.

Earlier this summer the South Cheshire Masonic Golf Society (SCMGS) took part in a golfing day designed to have fun, raise funds but most importantly, donate more specialist wheelchairs and buggies to grateful recipients and their families

The day was well-attended and the hard work carried out by members and supporters of the SCMGS was given the recognition it deserved by the presence of not one, but two Provincial Grand Masters, Stephen Blank of Cheshire and John Lockley of Staffordshire.

The SCMGS event, held on 21st June 2018, is one of six run each year to raise much-needed funds that are then put towards specialised wheelchairs, ranging in price from £4,000 to £10,000. During its 40 year existence, the society has raised in excess of £270,000 and the recent meeting was a very special occasion as it marked the presentation of their 50th wheelchair – as well as their 51st and 52nd.

Accompanying the PGM's from Cheshire and Staffordshire were Harry Wright and John Skellern, Provincial Grand Charity Stewards for the two Provinces, as well as a number of dignitaries and invited guests.

Stephen Blank said: ‘It is incredible to witness how the members and supporters of the SCMGS quietly yet tirelessly raise money to help people whose lives are changed by the provision of these specialist pieces of equipment. The stories I have heard about the difference they have made really is humbling. I know I speak for John when I say how delighted to hear first-hand about the human impact Freemasons charitable giving makes.’

Noel Martin, Secretary of the SCMGS, said: ‘It may only seems a small thing, but giving a child a powered wheelchair not only changes the life of that child, it opens up the world for the whole family. I would like to thank everyone who has donated and supported us over the years, enabling a child to enjoy their life just that little bit more.’

Jack Woodfin from Deeside loves his wheelchair. Jacks mum, Cheryl, said: ‘I want to say how incredibly grateful we are for what you have done for our boy. He rides around like the coolest kid on the block and in total comfort. I am so happy and proud to walk beside him.’

Sophia Ketting, mother of Roman, another recipient, was ‘blown away’ when she heard a buggy was going to be provided for her son. Roman was admitted to the children's intensive care unit at Royal Stoke University Hospital on 15 November 2017. He was diagnosed with Myotubular myopathy, a condition that primarily affects the muscles for movement. People with this condition have muscle weakness and decreased muscle tone, a condition usually evident at birth.

Their specalised buggy offers postural support which reduces Romans risk of developing scoliosis and enables mum to transport Roman with ease. Since its provision, the buggy has supported Roman’s family complete daily activities that many of us take for granted and has dramatically increased the quality of family life.

Following a successful racing event held at Lingfield Park by Surrey Freemasons, children in Surrey hospitals are continuing to receive teddy bears for comfort and support

Teddies for Loving Care (TLC) is a registered charity distributing around 500 teddies a week to children in a number of A&E units across Surrey regardless of their background, challenge or need. Every child who attends their A&E Units is given a teddy bear for comfort and support thanks to TLC and Surrey Freemasons.

The teddy bears handed out to children in Surrey hospitals are part of a much larger Teddies for Loving Care project which is being led by Masonic Provinces across England and Wales.

‘It’s really heart-tugging to see a distressed child almost immediately calmed when a bear is presented to them and children get to keep the teddy bear too and take it home,’ said Ian Chandler, Surrey’s Provincial Grand Master, following a recent visit to a Surrey hospital.

With TLC now firmly in place, Surrey Freemasons were faced with a new dilemma. Do they stop funding TLC in the hope that hospitals will continue by finding new sponsors, or do they find new and innovative ways to raise funds to continue to support this valuable service?  The members of Surrey chose the latter.

Ian Chandler, plus many members with their families and friends, attended a fundraising race meeting at Lingfield Park on Saturday 23 June 2018 to support TLC. All seven races were sponsored by Surrey masons, making this evening event unprecedented in the history of Lingfield Park.    

Racegoers enjoyed a fabulous evening of racing, bathed in the Surrey sunshine around the racecourse. Guests were entertained by former Drifters singer Jason Nembhard and tapped their feet to the music of a Michael Jackson tribute band. One lucky guest even won a holiday to the Algarve in the raffle.

Ian Chandler added: ‘This was Surrey Freemasons’ first venture into organising such a high profile public event. Our thanks go to Lingfield Racecourse and all of the racegoers for supporting us on such an enjoyable evening.’

David Toulson-Burk, Executive Director of Lingfield Park, added: ‘We’ve been delighted to welcome Surrey masons to our race meeting. It’s heart-warming to see so many local business people here supporting their local community and we were thrilled to play our part in their fundraising.’

Thanks to the fundraising, every child attending Surrey A&E units continue to receive teddies.

A delegation of Cheshire Freemasons, led by Provincial Grand Master Stephen Blank, attended the official opening of the ‘Better Lives Centre’ at the Bridge Wellness Gardens on 27th July 2018
 
The Wellness Gardens in Ellesmere Port, which opened in 2015, have needed a permanent structure at its ‘heart’ for some time. To turn what was a dream into a reality required the support and donations from a number of organisations including Cheshire Freemasons, who donated £25,000.
 
The charity’s main purpose is to support those with mental health and learning difficulties and to create jobs for the long-term unemployed by growing and selling fruit, vegetables, salads and herbs to the local community. Bridge Wellness Gardens provides a therapeutic environment for people suffering from a range of mental health conditions, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as those with mental and physical learning disabilities.

It offers support and activities for young people struggling at school, older clients suffering loneliness and social isolation and people who just want to come and hang out on the farm. The charity is a working horticulture farm which first began operating in 2015.
 
Francis Ball, Chairman of Bridge Community Wellness Gardens and Farm, said: ‘The opening of the Better Lives Centre would not have been possible without the hugely generous support of a number of major benefactors as well as smaller donations from many other people in our community. It would also not have been possible without the tireless support of our dedicated team.

‘Since we opened in 2015, we have worked with hundreds of people of all ages, from school children to the long-term unemployed, helping them through what are often extremely difficult times. The Better Lives Centre will enable us to increase the amount of people we can support and the variety of work we can do to help them literally grow their lives.”
 
Cheshire’s Provincial Grand Master Stephen Blank said: ‘It is inspirational to see the work carried out at the Gardens. The fact it provides both a tranquil place to relax and also operates as a working farm, makes the project invaluable to the community it supports.

‘I have seen the garden project evolve over the years and it is incredible to see how much has been achieved in such a short time. The Better Lives Centre is the icing on the cake and I know I join with many in wishing Francis and his team all the best for the future – long may they make a difference to the lives of those they help.’

A new team took the reins in Shropshire on 28th July 2018, with Roger Pemberton installed as the new Provincial Grand Master following the retirement of Peter Taylor

Two impressive ceremonies at Harper Adams University were separated by an equally impressive lunch. A full house of Shropshire Freemasons and most welcome guests saw Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes install Roger Pemberton as Shropshire's newest Grand Superintendent and Provincial Grand Master.

The work of the London team was expertly guided by Grand Director of Ceremonies Oliver Lodge, while any small questions on etiquette or protocol were instantly and authoritatively answered by Deputy Grand Secretary Graham Redman. Guests also included the Provincial Grand Masters of Cumberland & Westmorland Norman Thompson and Isle of Man Keith Dalrymple.

The Deputy Grand Superintendent will continue to be Dave Kettle, Past Provincial Scribe E/Grand Secretary of the Province, while the new Deputy Provincial Grand Master is Jeremy Lund.

Sometimes it just needs a good cause, some crazy ideas and loads of enthusiasm to make something worthwhile – which is what happened when 60 Surrey Freemasons, alongside family and friends, went down the world’s fastest zip wire and raised over £35,000 for charity

They came together in Snowdonia on Sunday 15th July 2018 to take part in the fifth, and final, of their ‘Big Five Challenge’, in support of the 2019 Festival Appeal for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution.

As if abseiling down the spire of Guildford Cathedral last year was not crazy enough, this year’s challenge was for 60 Surrey Freemasons to ride Velcity 2, which is also the longest zip wire in Europe.

Reaching speeds of over 100mph during the 1,555 metre descent over Penrhyn Quarry in North Wales, this was to be a white-knuckle experience like no other. Jumps, as they’re called, were in groups of four, with the first group led by Surrey’s Provincial Grand Master Ian Chandler.

Colin Pizey, one of the Surrey Freemasons taking part, said: ‘The zip wire flight down was amazing. As you descend across the quarry lake, perceptions of speed just melt away and you feel like a bird gently gliding on wind. Then the ground and end-point accelerate towards you, before being suddenly braked to a halt and gently lowered back to ground.’

As in every instance, events like this zip wire challenge do not happen without a champion behind the scenes, to organise, liaise, inform and coax all parties towards a successful conclusion. In this instance, the champion was Terry Owens, a seasoned Surrey mason who had previously organised 15 fundraising events.

Terry said: ‘This was the most challenging event I’ve ever organised, but it could never have happened without everyone else stepping forward to support, take part or sponsor us.’

Despite some challenging journeys, everyone who promised to participate was there, enabling the zip wire challenge to raise over £35,000. Provincial Grand Charity Steward David Olliver, who coordinates Masonic charity events in Surrey, said: ‘This was one of the biggest and most successful Provincial charity fundraising events ever.’

A Yorkshire scouting group has held a ceremony to launch a new boat named after a masonic magazine

Wharfedale Scout Sailing Centre was able to purchase four boats and a trailer, thanks to a £12,000 grant from the Freemasons Province of Yorkshire West Riding. And, to thank the organisation for its financial support, the scouts named one of their boats, White Rose, after the twice-yearly provincial publication.

The centre is a Royal Yachting Association recognised teaching establishment and activity centre administered primarily by the 3rd Bingley Sea Scouts, who are recognised by the Royal Navy.

The centre, located at Reva Reservoir, near Menston, is visited by scouts from all over the country who use the boats for their activities and courses.  

The road trailer now enables young students completing their Duke of Edinburgh qualifications to take boats away on expeditions.

Roger Newhouse,  Assistant Provincial Grand Master of Yorkshire, West Riding, said: 'We are delighted to be able to support the Wharfedale Scout Sailing Centre with this grant, which has enabled them to purchase four boats and a trailer.

'Each year, the Province of Yorkshire West Riding gives grants totalling £200,000, to organisations across the region, including youth groups, charities, churches and schools. It was a pleasure to attend the launch of ‘White Rose’ and see the equipment that the grant has helped purchase and we wish the sailing centre every success for the future.'

The grant was sponsored by the Lodge of Amity No. 4148, which meets in Baildon.

Freemasons of the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland presented a brand new, fully liveried, BMW R1200 RT-P motorcycle, to the North West Blood Bikes Lancs and Lakes charity, in memory of the late Russell Curwen on 16th July 2018

The event took place at Kendal Masonic Hall where 190 guests gathered to witness a very moving and memorable occasion. Russell was a rider for the charity who died in a crash in May 2018 whilst on duty delivering vital medical supplies to hospitals in the area. 

Amongst those attending were Russell's parents, Pat Curwen and Ken Curwen, sister Susan Fiddler, brother Phil Curwen and uncle Terry Curwen. They were supported by members and friends of the North West Blood Bike Lancs and Lakes Charity, together with members from the Blood Bikes Cumbria Charity.

Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria, Claire Hensman, was also in attendance, together with former Lord Lieutenant Sir James Cropper and Lady Cropper. Following a short reception, during which the Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria was introduced to all present, the Provincial Grand Master of Cumberland and Westmorland Norman Thompson gave an address.

He said: 'On behalf of the Freemasons of Cumberland and Westmorland, I am delighted to be able to present this third fully equipped motorcycle to the North West Blood Bikes Lancs and Lakes charity. This third bike is named 'Russell', in memory of the Blood Bike Volunteer, Russell Curwen, who sadly lost his life whilst on duty with the charity.

'The Blood Bikers are unsung heroes, supporting the community at large and to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude. I am also delighted to announce that we will be funding the purchase of a fourth motor cycle, thus ensuring that the two Blood Bike charities covering the County of Cumbria, have both received two new bikes funded by members.'

The guests then gathered outside where the motorcycle received a blessing by Provincial Grand Chaplain Rev. Robert Friedrich Roeschlaub. The official presentation of the motorcycle was then carried out by Norman Thompson who handed over the keys to the Chairman of the North West Blood Bikes, Paul Brooks. One further presentation was made when Karen Carton, Assistant Area Manager - Central, presented Pat Curwen with a candle in memory of Russell, which had come all the way from the West Coast of Ireland, having been commissioned by the Blood Bikers fraternity. 

Although Russell was not a mason himself, he was very much liked and loved by all who knew him and this presentation was a very poignant occasion, whilst at the same time recognising his commitment to the Blood Bikes charity as a volunteer rider.

This was the third motorcycle presented to the Blood Bikes charities by the Freemasons of the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland, which cost in excess of £18,000. The first was presented in 2017 to the Blood Bikes Cumbria in the north of the county as part of their Tercentenary celebrations. The second was presented in May 2018 to the North West Blood Bikes Lancs and Lakes at an annual meeting in Carlisle, just a few days after the tragic death of Russell.

In a letter of thanks to the Provincial Grand Master, Simon Hanson Fleet Manager and Volunteer Rider for the North West Blood Bikes, said: 'Your hospitality was second to none with an array of distinguished guests which meant the night was even more special and one that the family has been able to take comfort from at this difficult time. 

'On behalf of the complete charity, I would again like to thank you for this superb donation and I can assure you it will make a tangible difference to the operation of our charity and enable us to provide the best support possible to the NHS and the 'local community' in South Cumbria who are the eventual recipients of our service.'

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