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 addition, a separate scheme will provide support towards the accommodation costs of students and graduates at a time when other financial assistance is very limited. The Ruspini and Burwood House Trusts will provide accommodation grants of up to £3,000 to the children or grandchildren of Freemasons.
To be eligible for support, applicants need to be either postgraduates studying for a qualification that is highly beneficial for their careers, graduates undertaking unpaid work experience or students who need to undertake research away from their usual place of residence. This new scheme will operate alongside Ruspini House, the Trust’s existing student accommodation facility in central London which enables young people to take advantage of learning, training and work opportunities in the capital.
With your support, the RMTGB will continue to help children who are most in need. For more information on the Trust or either of these schemes, including how to apply, please visit www.rmtgb.org.
Donations have recently been received from the Provinces of Hampshire and Isle of Wight, Surrey, Shropshire and the Mark Province of Cumberland and Westmorland. Lodges and individuals have also given generously.
Some have even participated in fundraising events such as marathons, mountain runs, and, for Ivor Macklin from Kent, a freezing February swim around Boscombe Pier. The captains of Chobham Golf Club have also run a whole year of fundraising activities for the charity.
As well as donating and raising money, many Freemasons volunteer at the hospices to help maintain the Lifelites equipment and to ensure that care staff are trained to use it. They also organise additional fundraising for their local Lifelites project, enabling the charity’s support to continue.
Lifelites chief executive, Simone Enefer- Doy, said: ‘The support from Freemasons is very important to us and helps Lifelites make a world of difference to the lives of children in hospices. Our volunteers are local Freemasons and are a shining example of the good work that masons do for local communities around the country.’
Lifelites (Charity No. 1115655) is a separate but subsidiary charity of the RMTGB. If you would like to donate to, or help support your local Lifelites project, please call 0207 440 4200 or visit www.lifelites.org for more information.
The Duke spoke to everyone present and saw the work of the province in its ‘Freemasonry in the Community’ projects, particularly the iHelp youth competition and the Rock Ride 1,500-mile charity bicycle ride from Gibraltar to Stowe School.
The former project has involved heats of young groups in Buckinghamshire competing for prize-money worth £13,500 to show the positive side of young people, while the latter project has raised around £70,000 so far, including funds for several non-masonic charities - the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA), the Royal British Legion, Air Ambulance and the Pace Centre, Aylesbury, who provide an education for life through programmes which incorporate all daily living activities and address the needs of the whole child. In addition, the Rock Ride also raised £22,000 for the province’s RMTGB 2010 festival.
The continuing support the RMTGB provides to young people is only possible due to the donations that are often inspired by the imaginative fundraising activities of Freemasons.
This summer has witnessed prime examples of such imagination, with three incredible journeys being made to raise money for the RMTGB.
To mark the launch of the 2016 Festival, John Donoghue from the Province of Hampshire and Isle of Wight cycled over 500 miles to deliver Festival details to every masonic centre in the Province.
After four days of cycling, John said: ‘I thought it would be an eye-catching way to highlight the Festival and hope it marks the start of a successful period of fundraising for the RMTGB.’
John had previously donated a kidney to his daughter, making his journey even more remarkable. He is hoping his endeavours will raise in excess of £20,000 towards the Festival Appeal.
Manuel Mouzo and his son Sebastian walked the El Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrimage across northern Spain. Manuel, from Rochester in East Kent, said: ‘I had always wanted to make this spectacular journey and raising money for the RMTGB made the experience even more enjoyable.’
Their twenty-six-day journey has so far raised £1,000.
Buckinghamshire Freemasons organised the Rock Ride, a 1,500 mile cycle ride from Gibraltar to Stowe School. Nine cyclists took part in the journey which lasted fourteen days and involved climbs totalling twice the height of Mount Everest. As well as helping a number of other charities, the Rock Ride has so far raised over £22,000 for the 2010 Festival in support of the RMTGB.
Les Hutchinson, RMTGB Chief executive, commented: ‘These remarkable fundraising journeys show the charitable nature of Freemasonry at its very best. I am extremely grateful to everyone who raises funds for the RMTGB. We rely heavily on these important initiatives to support our lifechanging work, particularly during these difficult times.’
Go to www.rmtgb.org for further information about the work of the RMTGB and fundraising.