Just as a stonemason would use the trowel to spread mortar or cement, so the Freemason uses the symbolic trowel to spread the cement of human kindness. In a very practical sense then, Freemasonry is the UK's largest contributor to the charities after the National Lottery.
All the money raised by Freemasons, and given to charity, is raised internally from the brethren. Nothing is collected from the general public. All Masons are encouraged to give generously, but only within their means, through alms collections, gift aid, etc. Unlike many other organisations, Freemasons never ask the general public for money.
Freemasons give to charity in four ways. First, a proportion of their annual dues, second through regular gift-aided donations, third by alms collected at each meeting and fourth, in lodges that hold raffles, by purchasing raffle tickets. The brethren decide themselves where their donations are applied. The Lodge Charity Steward is the brother who carries out those wishes.
Nationally, the Grand Lodge gives many millions of pounds to Masonic and non-Masonic good causes. The principle national Masonic charities, which contribute to Masonic and non-Masonic good causes are listed below.
The Grand Charity - the central grant making charity of all Freemasons in England and Wales. All funding for the Grand Charity comes from donations by individual Freemasons and their families.
Non-Masonic charities - since 1981, more than £30 million has been given to non-Masonic charitable causes.
Emergency Relief Grants - are given throughout the year at the discretion of the President of The Grand Charity. Freemasonry is usually the first to give donations for disaster relief often within hours of an appeal being launched or of the event itself.
Masonic Relief Grants – originally, these provided help for poor and distressed Freemasons and the making of Masonic Relief Grants and is still one of the primary activities of The Grand Charity. The Grand Charity also provides financial support, when needed, to the other three main Masonic charities: The Royal Masonic Institution for Girls and Boys (education and care), The Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (elderly care) and the Masonic Samaritan Fund (health care).
Hospices - in England and Wales also receive support every year. Since 1984, the Grand Charity has given over £6 million to them. This is in addition to the considerable sums raised by Freemasons around the country in support of their own local hospices.
Under the COVID-19 ‘lockdown’ Masonic meetings were suspended from March 15th for four months - and severe restrictions followed before november saw a second wave and a second lockdown. In that time Shropshire’s members have been anything but idle! Well over £90,000 has been raised for a variety of charitable causes linked to supporting those fighting and those affected by the coronavirus, including £21,000 dedicated to the provision of a van to aid the Shrewsbury Food Hub in its excellent and important work by Salopian Lodge of Charity 117
DESPITE ITS SMALL SIZE, THE PROVINCE OF SHROPSHIRE KNOWS HOW TO PUNCH WELL ABOVE ITS WEIGHT. BACK IN 2014 WHEN THE THEN PROVINCIAL GRAND MASTER PETER TAYLOR LAUNCHED A FESTIVAL FOR THE PROVINCE (THE FIFTH SMALLEST OF THE 48 PROVINCES) ITS 1,200 MEMBERS FOUND THEMSELVES FACING THE CHALLENGE OF RAISING NO LESS THAN £1 MILLION OVER THE FOLLOWING FIVE YEARS
Under the chairmanship of the provincial grand charity steward, Simon Aucott, a Festival Fundraising Committee organised, co-ordinated and supported the work of the lodge charity stewards throughout the Province in finding ever more inventive ways by which they, their families and friends might go about raising the vital contribution to the work of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF).
Members of the Province jumped out of aircraft, held promise auctions, went on a group cycle ride from Telford to Rotterdam, held dinners, garden parties and wine tastings. There were Christmas fairs and a spectacular concert. The Provincial Director of Ceremonies organised a competition for members to guess his annual mileage on masonic business during a single year; the answer was tens of thousands!
And just to prove that the having wheels is not the only way of fundraising, international walking champion Roger Michell walked between all the lodges of the Province to present a travelling Maul which then accompanied him and his wife Linda on a walk from Freemasons' Hall in Shrewsbury to Freemasons' Hall in Great Queen Street for quarterly communication in June 2019, where Roger's achievement of walking over 1,000 miles was recogised by the Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes. UGLE donated £1,000 to the appeal.
Eventually, the appeal came to a close and at a spectacular gala celebration event at the Telford International Centre, organised by the festival celebration committee chaired by Melvin Gough, the final total was revealed: an astonishing £1,217,094! This is the second highest per capita contribution ever made to the MCF. The Provincial Grand Master went on to praise the efforts of everyone who had worked so hard over the period of the Festival, singling out in particular the committee chairman and the festival treasurer, Dennis Hill.
Shropshire won't be required to hold another Festival until 2030, but the fundraising efforts won't stop any time soon: the Province, Lodges and individual Freemasons will build on the experience gained over the period of the Festival to continue to raise funds for many local charities, as they have over many years.
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