Charity is at the core of Freemasonry. It is central to the nature of a Freemason and it is practised regularly by Freemasons both within Freemasonry and in society in general. Every new Freemason is reminded of the need for him to think of those who are less fortunate than he is.
One example of what Freemasons do on a National level but funded by local Lodges and Districts is provide Teddy Bears to nearly every Hospital Accident and Emergency Department throughout the country. These are used to comfort children admitted for treatment and have been extremely well received by the Hospitals. You may well already know a child who has come home from hospital with a Teddy for Loving Care Bear!
East Lancashire Freemasons are fortunate to have their own charity, the East Lancashire Masonic Charity which provides financial support to Freemasons and their dependant relatives and makes grants to local charities and good causes. It is supported by many Freemasons who are “Friends of the ELMC” by making relatively small and regular donations to the ELMC. East Lancashire Freemasons are encouraged to make those regular donations although there is no requirement to do so.
The Provincial Grand Charity Steward
The current Provincial Grand Charity Steward is Steve Clark. Steve was appointed to the role in 2018. His duties are varied, although he admits to them being very pleasant. His role is to encourage Freemasons from across the Province of East Lancashire to have charity at the very heart of their Freemasonry, and to help to decide which good causes should benefit from the charitable donations of Freemasons. Steve says that the most pleasant part of his duties is visiting some of the organisations which have benefited from the grants to hand over cheques.
Steve is well supported in his duties by the Charity Stewards in every Lodge and District throughout the Province of East Lancashire Province. In turn, those Charity Stewards share the role within their Districts and their Lodges by encouraging giving, deciding upon which groups should receive their charitable donations, and handing over the donations to those charities and good causes.
As with every position within Freemasonry, it is a voluntary role and none of the Freemasons has a salary for their work.
The District Charity Steward
Each of the 11 Districts in the East Lancashire Province has a District Charity Steward. His role is to encourage the Lodge and Chapter Charity Stewards in their work, to raise funds for and to work on behalf of charities and good causes.
To enable them to do this, he should
• provide motivation, guidance and support keep in with the Lodge and Chapter Charity Stewards.
• be aware of the work being done by Lodge and Chapter Charity Stewards and to know what charitable money is being raised for Charity in general and for the ELMC in particular.
• Chair meetings of the Lodge and Chapter Charity Stewards to develop best practice, to arrange joint fund-raising events within the District and to disburse funds raised from such events.
• Review applications for ELMC grant funding and give guidance to applicants as to what information might be useful in helping the grant making committee come to a favourable decision.
Lodge and Royal Arch Chapter Charity Steward
All charity stewards, be they the Lodge or Chapter Charity Steward, the District Charity Steward or the Provincial Charity Steward, are in the same position of encouraging our brethren to feel comfortable that the things they are doing and the donations they are giving in the cause of charity are worthwhile, and that their donations will be gratefully received and faithfully applied.
Masonic charity consists not merely of putting the contents of our pockets into a charity bag, but it also applies to stewardship by helping with charitable work in the name of Freemasonry.
Each and every contact we make is a connection with the local community and with local good causes which then benefits both the good cause and Freemasonry.
We encourage publicity for our charitable works because it advertises both Freemasonry and the receiving “good cause”.
• We need to help the brethren to recognise that the donations they make, be they in cash or in kind, are valuable.
• Supporting people and organisations who need help is at the heart of Freemasonry. According to the Charity Aid Foundation, “Donating to charity is a major mood-booster. The knowledge that you’re helping others is hugely empowering and, in turn, can make you feel happier and more fulfilled. Research has identified a link between making a donation to charity and increased activity in the area of the brain that registers pleasure – proving that as the old adage goes, it really is far better to give than to receive.
• The good causes that benefit from Masonic Charities, and the help that Masonic Charities provide to brethren and their families in times of need cannot continue without support from Brethren. We can provide that financial support through
◦ donating large sums to our own Provincial Charity (the East Lancashire Masonic Charity) & other charities.
◦ a Brother / Companion becoming a friend of the ELMC by donating £60+ per year. The majority of brethren make their donation by a standing order at £5 (or more) per month. This works out at less than 17p per day.
◦ including a legacy in wills. Leaving a legacy can reduce the amount of inheritance tax that is payable. A legacy is a wonderful gift for any charity, but please ensure you understand the process in full and take advice before changing your will.
◦ arranging and supporting fund raising activities. Social activities can help to bond members of a Lodge, Chapter and District. They can involve wives and families, and of course, non-Masons. Easy activities to run and make a profit include quizzes, sponsoring a play at a local theatre, and dinner dances.
The intention is to produce a Charity Stewards’ booklet which will be distributed to every Charity Steward and will contain more specific advice.
Each District has an Emergency Response plan which falls within the remit of the District Charity Steward. It suggests that in times of need, we could open our Masonic Halls to be able to provide shelter, a hot drink, and a snack. This plan was written following the floods which happened on Boxing Day 2015 when Freemasonry was not as well prepared to help the general public as we could have been.
The Local Authority’s Emergency Planning Officer has the legal responsibility for caring for members of the public who need to be evacuated and so the District Charity Steward needs to ensure that the Emergency Planning Officer has the phone numbers of two or three Freemasons in order that Freemasons and their families can be turned out to help the general public in an emergency situation.
The call for help is not likely to be in relation to a flood. Far more common is the evacuation of an area following a fire at a garage involving an oxy acetylene cylinder. During the fires on the moors in 2018, Freemasons responded to the emergency by transporting water and snacks to the scene of the moor fires to support the firefighters who were tackling the fires.
There is funding available to Districts at the ELMC office to provide equipment if required. A phone call will release the funding.
The acknowledgement of volunteering has to be included as Freemasons who carry out Charitable work all volunteers and no-one gets paid for their Masonic work.
Over many years, some Districts have developed volunteering for stewarding into a well organised art of introducing the public to Freemasonry. They steward car parks for the local Hospice Open Day; they steward the local 10k run; (and plenty of other events) and they wear hi-viz jackets with the square and compasses on them