Celebrating 300 years

Somerset lodge backs YMCA recruitment

Kaz Marsh, deputy chief executive of Mendip YMCA at Wells, was presented with a cheque for £2,695 by Somerset Freemason Mike Perrée of Kenneth Kinnersley Lodge, No. 9218, which meets at Midsomer Norton. 

With £1,695 raised by lodge members and friends during Mike’s year as master, an additional £1,000 was added by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Somerset. The money will go towards funding training and support for volunteers, with the charity particularly in need of volunteers for youth clubs in Street and Glastonbury. 

Sharing in Somerset

A grants presentation evening held in Taunton Masonic Hall saw Somerset Freemasons presenting grants of £40,671 in the presence of local charities and civic leaders. Among others, a donation of £8,400 was given by Provincial Grand Stewards Lodge, No. 9189, for the purchase of special wound pumps, and £14,135 by the Masonic Bowling Association for vein viewers for the Haematology, Oncology and Palliative Care department of Musgrove Park Hospital.

Mentions were made of planned future donations of nearly £40,000 from the Somerset Masonic Flood Recovery Fund, following the appalling devastation caused by the flooding on the Somerset Levels during the winter of 2013-14.

Backing for Somerset hospice

Weston Hospicecare has received a £2,464 donation from the Grand Charity. The cheque was presented to John Bailey, the hospice’s director of patient services, by Somerset Freemasons Ian, Terry and Derek Porter.

John Bailey said, ‘I would like to thank The Freemasons’ Grand Charity once again for their generous support, which makes a real difference to the lives of local people with life-limiting illnesses.’

Published in The Grand Charity

The caring community

David Maddern and Geoff Tuck discuss the importance of the Grand Charity in bringing Freemasonry to a wider audience

Charitable giving has been a masonic tradition from the earliest days of Freemasonry, three hundred years ago. Since 1981, The Freemasons’ Grand Charity has supported members and their dependants in financial distress, as well as the wider community, with grants totalling more than £120 million.

This tremendous achievement has only been possible because of the generosity of Freemasons and their families. Wherever possible, the Grand Charity involves members in its activities, with Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Almoners and Grand Charity Stewards playing a crucial role in service delivery and fundraising.

David Maddern (Provincial Grand Charity Steward of Somerset) and Geoff Tuck (Assistant Provincial Grand Master of Hampshire and Isle of Wight) have been central figures in masonic charity in their Provinces for many years. They both understand the importance of involving the masonic community in Grand Charity activities and the positive effects this can have. 

With the Province of Somerset currently in Festival for the Grand Charity, David has encountered a perception that the Grand Charity does not support local communities, something that he believes could not be further from the truth. 

‘By involving Freemasons in the donations to non-masonic charities and projects, a true understanding of the Grand Charity is gained,’ he explains. ‘The annual cheque presentations to hospices and air ambulances are a great way to involve members from across the Province, especially as these fantastic services are close to the hearts of many.’

It is a priority for the Grand Charity that it supports the causes that matter to masons. Geoff remarks, ‘Details of the non-masonic grants have a positive ripple effect on members; they are recalled with pride and often lead to further financial and volunteering support for the charities.’ 

David echoes this point: ‘The charities that have received the largest donations from Somerset lodges are also charities that the Grand Charity has supported – Help for Heroes, Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance, and St Margaret’s Hospice. I would not be surprised if other Provinces were to report the same thing, as I sense that the Grand Charity’s actions inspire local masons to follow its lead.’

Provincial involvement with the supported charities can also help Freemasonry. ‘Being part of non-masonic grant-giving creates rare public opportunities to overcome prejudices, myths and unfair publicity,’ says Geoff. ‘As a result, I know of at least two gentlemen who have become masons, and innumerable others who now have a totally different and positive view of Freemasonry.’

Geoff sees the work of the Grand Charity in respect of non-masonic grants as an essential element in the future of the Craft and its reputation. ‘It is a clear demonstration that Freemasonry is an influence for good and something of which future members wish to be a part.’

It is important to The Freemasons’ Grand Charity that all masons feel involved with its work. To find out more, visit www.grandcharity.org or contact your Provincial Grand Charity Steward and discover how you can get involved

Published in The Grand Charity

Praise for local masons over Somerset floods help

The dramatic floods on the Somerset Levels early last year continue to affect the local community, with some residents still living in temporary accommodation – many in caravans or some distance from their home. 

The Somerset Community Foundation (SCF) has distributed more than £1 million to help alleviate financial hardship, with local masons raising over £200,000 to establish the Somerset Masonic Flood Recovery Fund for the Foundation.

SCF chief executive Justin Sargent praised local masons for their work: ‘It was with the support of the Freemasons that we were able to swiftly provide the necessary funding to increase the number of Somerset Village Agents to work in flood-affected areas. 

At a time when many communities were ripped apart, they have been providing an essential signposting and support service, providing reliable and independent eyes and ears on the ground for us.’

Letters to the Editor - No. 30 Summer 2015

Charitable support

Sir,

I was pleased to see the article in the spring issue of Freemasonry Today referring to the fantastic support from Freemasons for those affected by the floods in Somerset. Your article stated that some £200,000 was raised by local masons, but I should point out that more than £89,000 of that total came from Essex Freemasons in response to an appeal by our Provincial Grand Master, John Webb.

This in no way detracts from the massive support given by Somerset for such an unparalleled disaster and I should emphasise that Essex masons were delighted to be part of such an incredible initiative, which has clearly made such a difference. 

Colin Felton, Leigh-on-Sea Lodge, No. 4708, Southend-on-Sea, Essex

Bowled venture in Taunton

Ninety-six bowlers and supporters from 17 Provinces travelled to Taunton in Somerset to take part in the annual masonic charity bowls event, hosted by the Somerset Masonic Bowling Association, which was raising funds for the Beacon cancer centre at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton.

The Taunton Deane Bowling Club provided a superb setting in which Hertfordshire beat Cornwall in the final with Somerset third. The event raised £13,500 and the centre intends to buy its first VeinViewer – a mobile vascular imaging system that allows healthcare providers to see clearly accessible vasculature in real time directly on the surface of the skin.

Lift for Somerset air ambulances

Somerset Freemasons have presented Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance with a £2,000 grant from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, part of more than £1.5 million donated by the charity since 2007, providing funding to every air ambulance service in England and Wales. The cheque was presented by Sam Mayer of Gerard Lodge, No. 8999, on behalf of Somerset Freemasons, supported by Dave Gleeson. 

Published in The Grand Charity

Shoring up in Somerset

Flooding in England and Wales caused widespread damage and disruption to many communities during the winter. Somerset masons, backed by The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and other Provinces, came to the rescue with help for the Somerset Community Foundation.

Grand Charity President Richard Hone, QC approved a £20,000 emergency grant for the British Red Cross in support of its UK flood relief efforts.

The grant was backed by a special appeal among Somerset masons, who raised more than £175,000 for the Somerset Masonic Flood Recovery Fund, becoming one of the four main donors to the local appeal. Other Provinces also sent generous donations. 

The Grand Charity is working closely with masons in other affected areas of England and Wales to establish the best way to offer further support. In parallel with support for wider relief efforts, the charity will assist individual eligible masons who have been affected by events, and their dependants, by providing Masonic Relief Grants to relieve hardship.

Helping hand for special horse charity

Nyanza Lodge, No. 1197, in Ilminster, Somerset, has presented a cheque for £1,400 to the Horseshoes and Handprints charity, which provides sensory therapy and special riding for adults and children with behavioural and communication difficulties. Close contact with horses can relieve stress within people with conditions such as Asperger’s, autism and neurological disorders.   

Nyanza Lodge raised £700 from a charity lunch that attracted matched funding from the Charities Committee of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Somerset, with the total figure of £1,400 adorning the neck of one of the charity’s horses, Josh. 

When the Provincial Grand Master, Stuart Hadler, launched his appeal on February 17 he did not appreciate the level of support that would be received from Somerset lodges and from Freemasons around the country

Hoping to achieve £50,000, the Somerset Masonic Flood Recovery Fund has passed £125,000 and has become one of the four major contributors to the Somerset Flood Appeal.

The Provincial Grand Master has been overwhelmed by the generosity not only of brethren in Somerset but of many other Provinces and, of course, The Freemasons' Grand Charity.

Commenting, Stuart Hadler said: 'The concern shown towards those in great need on the Somerset Levels by brethren from far and wide has been overwhelming. We will be able to make a most significant contribution to helping families and communities to recover and rebuild over the coming months. The need is immense. With the continuing contribution of brethren and Lodges in Somerset, I hope that we will be able to achieve a target of £175,000.

'I express my heartfelt thanks to all those who are supporting the appeal.'

The Provincial Grand Master has also announced that he is setting up a Flood Recovery Grants Committee to work with the Somerset Community Foundation to identify and approve grants for suitable projects. A number of areas of possible support are being clarified that will aid individuals and communities in their recovery. This committee will be lead by John Winston, AsstProvGM, and include brethren with knowledge of the Somerset Levels.

The Somerset Community Foundation (SCF), having been tasked to provide financial support to those affected by the floods, launched an appeal for £150,000 in January. It quickly became clear that in the months ahead a far greater sum would be required, not only to provide emergency grants to those in need, but much more would be needed to support the recovery and re-building of lives and communities. The SCF set up a system for emergency grant payments. Since January this has helped over 200 households and awarded over £120,000. Through working alongside community workers and other organisations longer term needs have begun to be identified.

Having recognised that the SCF would be well placed to identify genuine need and manage the use of grants, Stuart Hadler elected to use the SCF as the main route through which Freemasonry could best support those affected by the floods. The Emergency Grant phase was adequately covered by donations to the SCF. The subsequent stages of recovery and rehabilitation would take yet more money and fill gaps not covered by government, other agencies and insurance.

The SCF has now increased its target to £1,000,000. This week £750,000 has been received including over £125,000 allocated by the Somerset Masonic Recovery Fund. A tremendous achievement on the part of Freemasonry.

Peter Whyman CBE, Chairman of the SCF said, 'On behalf of the Board of Trustees of the Community Foundation may I thank everyone involved in raising this money which I am certain will make a real difference to the communities currently affected so badly by the flooding'.

Current flood situation

We have all seen and heard reports of the personal experiences of those affected by the flooding on the Levels. At its height around 200 households were affected and of those 90 families were evacuated, in many instances with little notice and therefore without the chance to collect and take clothing and personal effects.

This week (beginning of March) the reduced rainfall and pumping efforts have seen the waters begin to subside and some residents have for the first time been able to visit their homes. They have witnessed severe water damage and contamination of their homes, sewage pollution and staggering accumulations of debris. One can but imagine the horror, heartbreak, overwhelming sense of loss and hopelessness experienced when faced with a much-loved home that has effectively been devastated and devalued.

The process of drying out, clean-up, repair and restoration will take months.

Loss adjusters are beginning the process of assessing the damage. Many of those affected have been advised that it will be up to twelve months before they will be able to return. In some cases homes are beyond repair. The impact on house values can be imagined. Some families will have had enough and look to move elsewhere. It has been estimated that around 25% of properties are uninsured and others underinsured because of the high premiums required.

The floods have also affected many small businesses that offer local employment and services. They too will need financial and practical assistance to find alternative premises, re-equip and address cash-flow issues.

Village and community life has been disrupted, in part because of being cut-off or having extended journeys to move from one place to another. Community facilities are out of action. Many residents have been evacuated or moved away temporarily.

The farming community has had pasture under water for weeks, fodder and foodstuffs destroyed. Livestock has either been moved or sold. Some farms remain under water and will be out of action for a considerable time. Many areas remain under water.

Immediate support

While the various agencies have been present on the ground and provided a range of help and support, much of what has been needed has been provided by a huge groundswell of voluntary effort and community spirit. This has responded to individual and collective needs, lobbied for support and assistance and been very successful in maintaining morale and mutual support.

Many individuals and groups have come together and participated in the emergency relief effort.

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