In March, brethren from Apollo University Lodge No. 359 (Oxford) and Loge Robert de Sorbon (Paris) attended a meeting at Freemasons’ Hall, Cambridge, followed at the June meeting with a friends and family garden party. The celebration of the anniversary was held in July, at which the principal guest was the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence.
The prime purpose of the meeting was to make the substantial charitable donations that the lodge had decided should be the main way in which it celebrated its anniversary year.
The lodge has donated £1,000 for each year of its existence, with £50,000 going to the Grand Charity through the Provincial Festival, £50,000 to other masonic charities and £50,000 to a number of non-masonic charities drawn from suggestions and requests from lodge members.
Past Masters of the lodge presented cheques to the Assistant Grand Master, David Williamson, the Metropolitan Grand Master, Russell Race, and to the Presidents of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institute (RMBI), Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF) and the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB).
The Provincial Grand Master received the cheque for his Festival on behalf of the Grand Charity.
Matthew Scanlan reports on a pilot scheme
The comedian Bob Hope once quipped, ‘If you haven’t any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.’ And as every Freemason knows, Freemasonry places great emphasis on a generous heart and charitable giving, even though not every member is aware of the charitable help that is available to both himself and his loved ones. Therefore, in the wake of a recent pilot scheme which was specifically launched to help raise awareness of the work of the masonic charities, Freemasonry Today decided to speak with those involved to see how the initiative went.
In September 2009 the four main masonic charities – the Freemasons’ Grand Charity, the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and the Masonic Samaritan Fund – launched a joint pilot scheme called Freemasonry Cares to try and better inform members about their work.
For seven months the provinces of Bristol, Cambridgeshire, Durham and Yorkshire West Riding piloted the scheme, which focused on informing members and their dependents, as well as lapsed members (those who may have fallen on hard times or who have become too infirm to attend meetings), about the wide range of charitable help and support that they are eligible to apply for in times of need. And in all instances the message was simple: if you have a masonic connection and you are experiencing financial or healthcare problems, contact Freemasonry Cares.
In the words of Eric Heaviside, the Provincial Grand Master of Durham, ‘One of the most surprising things we discovered with Freemasonry Cares was just how many brethren and their families were totally unaware of the potential guidance and assistance available to them. Many simply go to their lodge and afterwards put away their regalia, and that’s it. And many in the province didn’t realise what they were entitled to; for some it never occurs to them to even seek advice in this regard.’
To tackle this shortfall in knowledge, a specially produced booklet was distributed throughout the four pilot provinces to members and widows of deceased masons. The booklets addressed commonly posed questions relating to both eligibility and the type of help available; help that typically ranges from purely financial related issues such as funeral costs or education support, to healthcare and family support, including hospital treatment, respite care and child maintenance. And in every province the booklets seem to have proved an unqualified success.
A key initiative of the scheme, information about which was also featured in the booklets, was the setting up of a confidential helpline number and this also appears to have won universal approval. For as Eric Heaviside once again explained, ‘One of the problems we frequently encounter is that a lot of our people are very proud people and they don’t want to call on charities. But we have tried to explain that it’s Anyone who wishes to contact Freemasonry Cares should ring the confidential helpline number: 0800 035 6090 more of an entitlement and not charity as such, and that appears to have helped somewhat’.
John Clayton, the Provincial Grand Master of Yorkshire West Riding, also noted that because calls made to the helpline number are dealt with in strict confidence, a greater number of masons have been encouraged to come forward and enquire about possible help, far more than was the case in the past.
He also pointed out that in the case of Yorkshire West Riding where there were already wellestablished charities such as Provincial Grand Master’s Fund, which in 2009-10 donated £425,662 principally to non-masonic charities, they have noticed an upturn in charitable applications by as much as sixty percent since the launch of the Freemasonry Cares scheme in the autumn of 2009. Therefore it was generally agreed that even in provinces such as this, the new initiative can not only better inform masons and their dependents about the good work of the charities, but it can also provide a boon for public relations.
The conclusion of the Provincial Grand Master of Cambridgeshire, Rodney Wolverson: ‘the initiative was very good, well presented and well thought out, and overall it was received very well, but most importantly, it also shows that Freemasonry really does care’.
This optimism is also borne out by the facts. For during the pilot year the number of grants awarded in the four test-case provinces saw an increase of thirty-six percent on the previous year, compared to a thirteen percent average increase across the rest of the country. Consequently, the initiative is now being rolled out nationally and over the next eighteen months provinces across England and Wales will be invited to introduce Freemasonry Cares in the hope that the pilot success can be repeated across rest of the country.
In recent months the Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF) has seen an increase in demand for support with the cost of respite care.
As local authorities across England and Wales are forced to reduce their budgets, carers requiring essential breaks are more at risk of being unable to access the support they desperately need. ankfully, the Masonic Samaritan Fund is able to help carers get the breaks they need during these difficult times.
Many people provide vital care for a loved one – a partner, a parent or a child. is will often involve helping someone with some of their essential daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, eating and moving around the home. Many carers have to reduce their work to accommodate their caring role, or give up work entirely, which will have a huge impact on their household finances and savings.
Caring for someone can be exhausting, expensive and have a serious impact on the carer’s health. All carers, whatever level of care they provide, need a break. Regular breaks can help to ensure that someone can cope with their caring responsibilities and provides the essential time and space needed to recharge their batteries.
The MSF can help in the following ways:
Residential respite care – where the person being cared for goes away to be looked after by someone else for a few days or a few weeks, for example in a care or nursing home;
Domiciliary care – where support is provided in the home to help out with some of the carer’s responsibilities for a few hours a day.
In 2010 the Fund helped 134 carers and their families with respite care breaks. If you, or someone you know, could benefit from a break from their caring role, contact the Grants Team on 020 7404 1550 to see if help is available.
EASING PRESSURE ON THE NHS
The NHS has been tasked with finding £20 billion of savings by 2014. is is likely to have an eff ect on a very large number of patients. However, the impact will be felt the greatest by the most vulnerable of our society – older people, and those with disabilities and mobility problems.
The MSF is well placed to help those facing lengthy waiting times for operations and care on the NHS during these difficult times. Support is available towards the cost of many medical treatments, including surgery for cancer, heart problems, replacement hips, knees and joints, spinal surgery, cataract removal, prosthetic limbs and many other serious and painful conditions. In 2010 medical grants were awarded to over 300 people to help them get back on their feet – literally!
If you, or someone you know, has been assessed as needing surgery or treatment on the NHS, but face a wait and cannot aff ord the cost of private treatment, please contact the Grants Team.
“I cannot tell you how grateful I am to you and my Masonic benefactors. I could not possibly have afforded this treatment myself and I certainly do not take this support for granted.”
“I would like to say a very big thank you to everyone for their support in my application for a knee operation. My knee cartilage snapped in half forcing me to join the NHS waiting list - a list which got longer each time I spoke with the hospital. Throughout the application, and post op, my Provincial Almoner gave me full support.”
“I am writing with heartfelt thanks for the work that you and your colleagues do at the MSF. I would also like to give special thanks to my lodge Almoner who selflessly took time from his own life to reassure and give support throughout the whole period; men like this are few and far between.”
“I am writing to say thank you for all the help and support you have given me over the last few weeks. I will be forever grateful to you and the team.”
Applicant names have been removed to retain confidentiality. Staff and Almoner names have been removed to spare their blushes! To all those who continue to work on behalf of the MSF, please accept the grateful thanks of beneficiaries, staff and trustees.
As it enters its 21st year, the Masonic Samaritan Fund continues to support the health and care needs of Freemasons and their dependants who have an identified health or care need and, faced with a long wait for treatment or care, cannot afford their own private provision without incurring financial hardship.
If you, or someone you know, is in need of health or care support please contact the Fund for advice on what support is available and how to complete the simple and confidential application process.
Warwickshire Hosts General Meeting
Warwickshire PGM David Macey has kindly agreed to host the next MSF General Meeting. It will be held at the Provincial Headquarters in Edgbaston on Wednesday, 30 March 2011.
The meeting will combine an opportunity to report on the ongoing work of the Fund whilst thanking the members of Warwickshire for their generous support through the 2012 Festival Appeal.
EMAIL SCAM – A WARNING
We have been made aware of an email scam claiming to come from the United Grand Lodge of England seeking to raise funds on behalf of the Masonic Samaritan Fund. This is a scam. The MSF has not, and will not, undertake any fundraising by email. Please ignore any email donation request that appears to come from the MSF. If you have any questions, or have received an email claiming to be on behalf of the MSF, please contact the Fund.
Since the amputation, Mrs Gordon has been confined to the lounge of the family home where she eats, washes and sleeps. There is a hospital bed within the lounge and at night her eighty-four year-old husband moves a camp bed into the lounge so that he can provide the twenty-four hour care that his wife needs.
Mr Gordon also does all the cooking, cleaning and personal care for his wife. They do receive help from a series of carers who are very supportive and helpful, but the main burden still falls on her husband, who has a heart condition and has had a pacemaker fitted.
Through his own efforts Mr Gordon has secured some funding from his local authority to assist with converting the downstairs of the family home to provide the facilities that Mrs Gordon needs, including a ceiling-mounted hoist. However, the funding fell significantly short of the overall cost and an application was made to the Masonic Samaritan Fund for assistance.
In conjunction with a member of the RMBI care advice team and following a detailed occupational therapist assessment, a grant was approved to meet the shortfall in respect of the costs of adapting the home to meet the specific needs of Mrs Gordon and to provide an electric wheelchair.
The wheelchair has been supplied and is being put to good use already. The building work is nearing completion and will enable Mrs Gordon to move freely about the ground floor of the house without assistance for the first time since before her amputation. The Masonic Samaritan Fund has been able to support the couple in conjunction with the RMBI and the local authority. Collectively, this support will provide a major improvement to the quality of life of a very grateful couple.
Requests to assist with medical needs remain high as support is available across a wide variety of treatments from hip replacement to cardiac surgery, from digital hearing aids to drug treatment for cancer or degenerative diseases, from stomach banding to macular degeneration.
When the sixty-four year old wife of a mason was told that her herceptin treatment, previously funded by the NHS, would stop, she ‘was devastated and felt so lost with no hope for my disease ever having a chance to improve.’ Following an application to the Fund her treatment continued. She wrote: ‘I am humbled to be a lucky one who, by your help, has been able to have the treatment necessary to hopefully control my cancer and prolong my life.’
Support is available to Freemasons, their wives, widows, partners and dependants who have an identified medical, dental or respite care need, are faced with a long wait for treatment or care, and are unable to afford their own private treatment or care without incurring financial hardship. Enquiries are welcome by telephone, email or letter from potential applicants or almoners direct to the Fund. Early contact with the Fund will identify what support may be available and will provide full details of the straightforward and confidential application process.