Volume LVIMAY/JUNE 2009Number 2

Stephen Gardner
R.W. Grand Master

Brethren:

It has now been a year and a half since my service as Right Worshipful Grand Master began. Quite literally, over that entire period of time, we all have born witness to the onset of a global recession. This recession has impacted each and every one of us in some manner. It has been longer and deeper than even those most learned financial professionals could have ever imagined. It has commanded significant amounts of time, energy and the passions of the Grand Lodge officers and others in positions of responsibility in their service to Grand Lodge. I felt it was appropriate to use this forum to provide some manner of update on its impact on Grand Lodge.

The various Grand Lodge finance-related committees have been very aggressive in their efforts to protect and secure the investments of Grand Lodge and the Masonic Villages. Due to their efforts, even though we, too, took a significant hit, our investments have been better protected than those of the average investor. This is a testament to the efforts of the Grand Lodge officers and the many professionals overseeing these critical assets of the Grand Lodge and our Masonic Villages.

Just as the impact of the recession has been felt in the operations of both Grand Lodge and in each of our five Masonic Villages, so has the response. Difficult times have required difficult decisions. Within the operations of Grand Lodge, already reduced budgets were again lowered by another 10%. Painful decisions, including personnel reductions, became necessary. Additional measures including reduction of one full-time employee to part-time, no overtime, a hiring freeze and renegotiation of service and maintenance contracts were only some of the measures implemented.

Within our Masonic Village operations, an ambitious goal of reducing operating costs this year by $10,000,000 is well underway, and they are getting close to meeting this goal. This is all being done under the umbrella guidelines of absolutely no reduction in services to our residents nor any layoffs at the Villages. In working to achieve this goal, the Masonic Village leadership voluntarily passed on salary increases for 2009, a hiring freeze and reduction in overtime where possible has been implemented, the Florida reunions for 2009 were cancelled, we reduced the number of editions of "The Pennsylvania Freemason" magazine and made a personally painful decision to cancel Autumn Day for 2009. These are only the tip of the iceberg of a huge number of cost-saving initiatives that have occurred.

I wish to extend my personal appreciation and gratitude to our leadership, staff and residents who have stepped forward from both Grand Lodge operations and our Masonic Villages in response to these challenges. There is no doubt that because of efforts such as these, that we will come through this crisis in a strong financial condition. To each of you, thank you for your part in getting us through these financially challenging times. It is because of your efforts that we will be able to continue the level of services we might be tempted to take for granted.

On a more upbeat note, the "Change for the Troops" program continues to reach levels that are a compliment to our beloved fraternity. As of this writing, contributions in excess of $209,000 have been received. This is enough to purchase calling cards for over 11,500 troops. Due to the kind generosity of the entire Masonic family in Pennsylvania, this has been made possible. We can measure the dollar contributions, but we cannot measure the personal value of those calls back home. In this edition are some of the letters we received. My name is the name they had, but their letters are to YOU. Some of these were written on scraps of paper mailed from the desert. Read, listen and feel the appreciation of these modern day heroes and their families.

Sincerely & fraternally,
R.W. Grand Master

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