What does charity mean to a Freemason? Well, charity is at the heart of Freemasonry. The three great principles by which we stand are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
Freemasons are taught to practise charity and to care not only for their own members, but also for the community as a whole, by charitable giving and by voluntary efforts and works by individuals.
From its earliest days Freemasonry has been concerned with the care of orphans, the sick and the aged in their lodges. This work continues today. In addition large sums are given to masonic and non-masonic charities at national and local level.
Individual Masons are urged to continue with their existing charitable and caring commitments. For instance, one of our members recently crewed in a round the world sailing race. All his fellow lodge members sponsored him and the money raised was divided between Zoe’s Place baby hospice and another good cause. A different brother was sponsored to go ‘swimming wiith sharks’ with the proceeds donated to the Anthony Nolan Trust. Our members have often left amounts in their wills to be allocated by the lodge to a relevant charity. Two of the latest involved providing specialist beds in the medical wing of a retirement home and the financing of disability toilets.
Neil Francis crewing in the 2008 Trans Atlantic Yacht Race
William McMath - Diving with sharks for the Anthony Nolan Trust
This includes making contributions to other Masonic charities and ensuring that our elderly, infirm or needy brethren and their families are not in want. Many of our social events result in a surplus which is then given to charity.
The causes can be close and local to our hearts. For instance we gave money to the families of the victims of the Titanic tragedy. We have continued to support Masonic charities. In 1997 a gift of £13,441 to our charity that helps boys and girls in need formed part of the contribution of £7,548,197 from West Lancashire.
During the period 2005-2010 we contributed over £14,616 to the Samaritan Fund to help with medical care.
The Province of West Lancashire organizes our regional charitable giving. A part of the annual subscription of every member is set aside for this purpose – both masonic and non-masonic. Masonic includes such things as help for a brother who finds himself in financial distress, and donations to Masonic residential nursing homes. Non Masonic giving includes such things as grants to societies such as :-
• The Roy Castle Lung Foundation
• North West Air Ambulance
• Southport Alzheimer Society
• Madame Curie Cancer Care
• Blackpool Tigger group – the gift of a bouncy castle
• Many scout, guide, and church groups all over the Province
• The Sefton Hackney Drivers Association for their annual charitable outing.
The National Masonic Charities organise and coordinate our charitable efforts on a national and international scale. Again, a part of the annual subscription of every brother is used to finance the four central Masonic charities. Three of these deal mainly with the specific needs of Freemasons and their dependents: -
• The Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys that provides support, relieves poverty and addresses the educational needs of Freemasons’ children (and when funds allow) assisting other children
• The Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution that provides residential, nursing and dementia care for older Freemasons and their dependents, as well as practical support for those who wish to remain in their own homes.
• The Masonic Samaritan Fund that provides grants towards the cost of private medical and dental treatment in situations where there would otherwise be either a long wait for, or no access to, state-funded treatment. It also provides grants for respite care.
The other central Masonic charity is The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, which has two main objectives. One is to provide help for Freemasons and their families who are experiencing hardship. The second is to make grants for non-masonic causes, both Nationally and Internationally. Grants for international disaster relief can be made within 48 hours.
Examples are the Tsunami in 2007, the Myanmar (Burma) cyclone, the earthquakes in China & Haiti, and the hurricane in the Caribbean.
The national non–masonic grants announced in 2008 alone by the Freemasons Grand Charity amount to £3,200,000 and fall into the following broad categories :-
• Medical Research £1,200,700
Deafness Research UK £82,700
Ovarian Cancer Action £1,000,000
• Youth Opportunities £802,600
Outward Bound £40,000
The Princes Trust £50,000
Scout Association £500,000
• Vulnerable People £911,700
Soldiers, Sailors & Air Force Association £100,000
Breast Cancer Haven £250,000
• Air Ambulances £180,000
North West Air Ambulance £12,000
• Hospices £600,000
Which includes 15 in West Lancashire
All the amounts shown above under the headings of Lodge, Province and National Masonic Charities come to a very large total. The donations to non-masonic causes alone for 1981- 2008 exceeds £43m .
Additionally the Masonic charities help aged, sick and needy brethren and their families. It must be borne in mind that all the money to do this work is not raised by street collections or public appeals but comes ultimately from voluntary gifts by individual members of Masonic Lodges, amongst which Merchants’ Lodge is proud to be numbered.
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