|Volume LVIII||May 2011||Number 2|
Lodge Community Service Initiatives
Many lodges recognize the value of helping others in the community as a way to do what is right, while exposing the public to the good works of Freemasonry. The following are some of the ways lodges are fulfilling the needs of friends and neighbors.
Masonic Battle of the Bands
Bro. Sam Newsham, Williamson-Corinthian Lodge No. 368, Philadelphia, started playing music when he was 7 years old. He has played in a number of bands and has found one of the hardest obstacles to overcome is finding opportunities to showcase original material in front of a live audience.
"When Right Worshipful Grand Master Thomas Sturgeon called on each lodge to make an extra effort to raise an additional $2,000 to help fund the Masonic Villages, I could think of no other way to do it than combining my two biggest passions: music and Freemasonry!" he said.
After three months of planning, Bro. Newsham organized a Masonic Battle of the Bands last July featuring eight live groups ranging in all genres of music. A local Guitar Center loaned $8,000 worth of amplifiers for the day and Studio 609 donated free live recording time to the winning band. The Decepticide, a band who has opened for a number of national acts, volunteered their time to judge the bands based on originality, stage presence, song writing and overall performance. Bro. Newsham reached his goal of raising $2,000 and is planning a second Battle of the Bands for June 11.
"One of my biggest goals was to promote the fraternity," he said. "The musicians involved were able to see that not only were they helping a worthy cause with their talent, but that the Masons are moving into the 21st century with charity ideas which are fun and exciting. Our lodge has been working very hard to fundraise and increase our membership. All the bands that performed were male and, except for Wake the Sleeper's bassist, between the ages of 18 and 35. That's a lot of 'new blood' that could help us move into the future.
"Since joining the lodge, I have met and befriended many of my fellow brothers from across the world - thanks to social networks online. I love everything that I have been able to be a part of since becoming a member of this fine fraternity."
Helping People through Fundraisers & Hard Work
The brethren of Pollock Lodge No. 502, Tarentum, bonded together by serving more than just pancakes to help a community member in need. In November 2009, Brackenridge Police Officer Mike Duffy and another firefighter ran into a burning home and rescued a woman and her two children. For their efforts, the Pennsylvania State Firemen's Association honored the two men with awards for valor. When members of Pollock Lodge heard Officer Duffy was recently diagnosed with cancer, they wanted to help this local hero.
Each month, the lodge hosts a pancake breakfast to raise money for various community service projects and special needs, as well as to offset lodge costs. Members decided to use January's pancake breakfast as a community outreach and benefit for Officer Duffy. The group pulled together their talents and people to spread the word and succeeded in serving more than 200 breakfasts, about four times as many as they typically serve each month. The event raised $1,400 for Officer Duffy and his family.
"Pollock Lodge was able to serve pancakes, but more importantly, its community and a leader of it in need, at a high level of visibility," Bro. Hugh Rumbaugh, S.W., said.
Members are organizing another pancake breakfast to assist the family of a local man who went missing and was later found dead. Other lodge community services include sponsoring car cruises and cutting grass, trimming trees and clearing brush at the Harwick Miners Mass Grave in Springdale, Pa. The lodge donated money to Prospect Cemetery and plan on helping with a clean-up day at the cemetery later this year.
"[Freemasonry] is something my family has been part of, and it means a closer connection to those who have gone before me," Bro. Rumbaugh said. "I owe it to them - my family and my Masonic family - because they paved a path to lighten a load, and I must try to do the same for others."
Spreading Holiday Cheer throughout the Community
Through an annual gala, Pulaski Lodge No. 216, Pottsville, works with others in the community to spread holiday cheer to local families while encouraging visitors to learn more about Freemasonry. For the last three years, lodge members have gathered 25 trees donated by local tree growers, reached out to community groups to decorate the trees and displayed them at the Pottsville Masonic Building.
Throughout the two-week gala, the brethren hosted a CHIP program, featured live musical entertainment from local high school and church groups, gave lodge room tours and collected items for Toys for Tots and canned goods for a local food bank. At the end of the gala, the lodge distributed the trees to needy families. Among the community groups involved were Girl Scout troops, St. Joseph Centre for Children, St. Nicholas School, St. Catherine's Medical Centre for Employees, Tall Cedars of Lebanon, Grand Chapter of PA, O.E.S. Chapters, American Legion, two local historical societies and several churches.
"We are very excited about the gala since we feel this is what Freemasonry is all about," Bro. Bob Thomas, P.M.,Secretary, said. "We bring our community together in the way we, as Freemasons, unite for a common good and the betterment of all."
News of Good Deeds Travels Fast!
The Temple Association of Tacony Lodge No. 600, Philadelphia, held a pancake breakfast/food and toy drive to benefit the Feast of Justice Food Cupboard at St. John's Church in Philadelphia. Organizers asked each attendee to bring a canned good and/or a toy for those who need it most. With the help of approximately 400 people, including young men from the Northeast Chapter Order of DeMolay, two Rainbow Girls Assemblies, and brethren from Harry A. Houseman Lodge No. 717, Widener-Apollo-Kensington Lodge No. 211, William Penn-Harmony Lodge No. 52, Lodge No. 9, Frankford Lodge No. 292, Jerusalem Lodge No. 506, and Joseph H. Brown Lodge No. 751, they succeeded in feeding 1,200 families.
"The whole day was a great pleasure to see," Bro. William Harner, W.M., said. "We were able to collect more than enough food to serve families for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We also feel it has raised awareness of the fraternity within the community. People can see what we're doing rather than just read fictitious accounts of our organization in the media. The event brought back the vigor we all have for the fraternity and livened all of our interest in doing new and better things for society."
The lodge asks its members to bring canned goods to each meeting to support St. John's Church, and the effort has spread throughout District D. Several lodges in the district also take extra food from their meetings that they would otherwise throw out, to a local soup kitchen.
After hearing word of Tacony Lodge's contributions, a local hospice provider found the lodge's contact information online and asked them if they would donate food to a local family. Members delivered a month's supply of food to a man, who just lost his job and whose wife was ill, and their two children. In addition to non-perishables, Bro. Harner also picked up milk, eggs and bread.
"They were more than happy to receive it," Bro. Harner said. "You could see the relief on their faces."
The hospice provider, in turn, helped a lodge member whose wife had a stroke. His wife was his primary caregiver, so the hospice provider helped him find a place to live where he could receive assistance. "Helping hands go both ways," Bro. Harner said.
Supporting Youth & Promoting Fellowship
Members of La Belle Vallee Lodge No. 232, Jersey Shore, have hosted several successful events for the community, including a spaghetti dinner for the Jersey Shore Area High School varsity football team and coaching staff. It was a night filled with fun, great food and fellowship with the young men. It was also a good opportunity to meet the boys and tell them about La Belle Vallee Lodge and what Freemasonry is all about. The cheerleading squad thanked the members of the lodge with an original song and dance performed by the team. Lodge members made a donation of $300 to the booster club to help the young men and to show them Freemasons are here to support the youth of Jersey Shore.
Another event members organized was a community block party held in conjunction with Homecoming Week in Jersey Shore. The lodge was buzzing with youth and adults from all over the area. A DJ entertained the crowd; the Jersey Shore Area High School cheerleaders provided games for the children to play, and the lodge members provided hot dogs, drinks and plenty of snacks. The event was a huge success with more than 200 community members attending. Following the event, several men asked for petitions.
Lodge members also coordinated a Super Bowl Sunday wing sale and donated a portion of the proceeds to the Jersey Shore Area High School football team and booster club.
At the lodge's February Stated Meeting, they hosted the local school administration and Board of Education and gave an anti-bullying presentation.
"This is just the beginning of numerous community activities planned," Bro. Ronald Aungst, Sr., W.M. and R.W.P.G.M., said. "We've got a great group of officers and Past Masters who stay involved in these and similar activities. For a lodge with just barely 200 members, we are quite active which is heart-warming for me as Worshipful Master."
Providing Needed Funds & Blood Donations
At Duquesne-McKeesport Lodge No. 731, Duquesne, members held a fundraiser in September to raise money for several charities in the Mon [Monongahela] Valley, including a food bank, A Woman's Place, the City of Duquesne Appreciation Day and the Humane Society. The donations were well received and greatly appreciated. Also in September, lodge members took part in a replenishment blood drive for one of the brothers. The Blood Bank used the lodge's hall to collect the donations.
"The brethren and people of the area made it a great success," Bro. John Warhold, S.W., said. "It's wonderful to be part of such a great organization as the Masons."
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