Dorset Freemason John Howland proudly presented a donation of £1,000 to Poole Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), which was raised by members of Northbourne Lodge No. 6827
John appreciates the remarkable work conducted by the NICU and reflected: ‘When I became Master of Northbourne Lodge, I realised I had an opportunity to repay them in some small measure for not only saving my granddaughter's but also my daughter’s life.’
John’s 13-year-old granddaughter Hannah, who was born prematurely at 26 weeks in 2005, was present when the cheque was handed over to staff nurse Felicity Metcalfe.
Poole NICU cares for babies requiring special care, whether it is due to pre-maturity, illness at delivery or health problems during the baby’s stay at hospital. The money will go towards procuring one of nine much needed £3,000 state-of-the-art ‘Hot Cots’, which are vital in enhancing the NICUs on-going success in safeguarding premature babies.
Dorset’s Provincial Grand Master Graham Glazier said: ‘This work by Northbourne Lodge is a terrific embodiment of the values of Freemasons all over the UK. We believe in playing a key role in our communities and regularly give time and money to charitable ventures.’
The office of Lodge Almoner is completely different from any other office within the lodge. His duty is to look after the welfare of the members and their wives or partners during times of distress which can arrive in any shape or form. And he must also be able to lend a sympathetic ear as those in trouble may have difficulty discussing it with another. His low-profile report in the lodge during the meeting is often the only glimpse lodge members get into his world.
I should like to give you some insight into the world of Lodge Almoners, the reports I will give are all cases I have dealt with. Not all Almoners will have experienced this workload but some might have had much more.
I first accepted the Office of Lodge Almoner about five years ago and during this time I have enjoyed the work and found it very rewarding with the normal routine of sending cards, flowers, paying visits to Brethren recovering from accidents, operations or suffering bereavements. But mixed in with these are the private conversations regarding the problems faced by Brethren, problems which range over every facet of life: perhaps his wife or partner is ill, or his house is too large with an overgrown garden and the need is for a Home. Or perhaps the lodge member is lonely without his family, having trouble with wills, or unemployed or relocating jobs.
These are just some examples of the private chats, sometimes at the lodge, or at home, or on the telephone at any time of the day or any day of the year.
Life can turn upside down in no time at all
One lodge brother had cancer which was in its early stages. We had a conversation at the lodge and then, his condition deteriorating, he could no longer attend meetings so I would visit him at home. After a while he had to give up his car but he could not walk very far and was distressed at not being able to get about. With the help of the Dorset Provincial Care Fund, a motorized chair was purchased to the Brother’s great delight. However, he managed to use it for only a short time. My reward was to see his happiness even for that brief period. His cancer reached the stage when admission into a Macmillan Hospital was necessary. I visited him there regularly and he enjoyed a different face and conversation. He died peacefully with his family around him.
A widow of a former lodge member was lonely. She was living a block of flats in a wonderful location but she had not met anyone. I contacted the Masonic Care Home to enquire about vacant rooms. The staff there were wonderful and helpful; we arranged a visit to this home for the widow and had a tour of the facilities with the manageress. The widow liked it very much and is now a resident, enjoying her life and company. This was a very rewarding conclusion both for her and for me.
A lodge member had breathing problems: we had many private talks but eventually he had problems coming to lodge meetings as he could not walk very far any more. We purchased a lightweight wheel chair through Dorset Provincial Care Funds. This enabled his wife to drive him about on visits. Eventually his condition worsened and he could not go out as he was dependent upon oxygen day and night. I visited him regularly and for Christmas – which was his last – I made up a hamper of his and his wife’s favourite things. My reward was to see the tears in their eyes when they received it.
The last case is sad and a reminder that life can turn upside down in no time at all. A young Freemason with a family, selfemployed, with financial commitments, was hurt when walking on uneven ground one weekend and unable to walk. Suddenly he had no income and he started paying his commitment from his savings. I contacted him, discussed his situation and then got in touch with Dorset Provincial Masonic Care and the Masonic Samaritan Fund.
With the wonderful help from these two funds we could give him some immediate financial help locally and arranged for the necessary operation for his injury. We also made an application to the Grand Charity for financial help.
However, being unable to work during a long recovery process together with his financial problems caused him to become very depressed. I spoke to him on a regular basis but the last time I did so he was in utter despair. The next message I received was to inform me of his death.
I assisted his wife with the funeral arrangements and since then have helped in any way possible. The Grand Charity has given assistance and now the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys have supported his daughter at University. At present she is doing very well and taking exams.
This is just a short insight into the office of a Lodge Almoner. Nobody in the lodge knows what you do, only those concerned and your Provincial Almoner.
And even he does not know everything that passes between you and those you are helping. So do not take this office with promotion in mind. Also, do not take on this office if you are a person who absorbs other people’s problems. You must be able to stand back while at the same time retaining a sensitivity to the situation.
But do accept this office if you are able, for your rewards will be great, in particular knowing that you can help people in a direct way, and this brings great satisfaction.
Gerald Middleton is Lodge Almoner for Northbourne Lodge No. 6827 and Fraternal Lodge of Dorset No. 9649. His wife is also a Freemason.
You can contact Freemasonry Cares to discuss how they can help:
- By Freephone: 0800 035 6090
- Via the web: www.freemasonrycares.org
- By mail: Freemasonry Cares, 60 Great Queen Street, London, WC2B 5AZ