Volume LIIIAugust 2006Number 3


Bro. William Crist, P.M., Lodge No. 144 (center) with Richard A. Mitchell, W.M. of Slidell Lodge, and Bro. Allen G. Tidwell, P.G.M., Slidell Lodge.

What is $4,091 + 1,171 miles?
This equation is nonsense to most readers, but for Bro. William W. Crist, P.M.,
Lodge No. 144, and Slidell Lodge No. 311 in Louisiana, the answer is simple:

Last September, after watching footage on television of the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, Bro. Bill Crist was concerned about his fellow brethren whose lodges might have been damaged by the storm. "In our obligation, it says, 'I will help, aid and assist,'" Bro. Bill said.

With that in mind, Bro. Bill began trying to contact his sister lodge in Louisiana, but his immediate efforts were unsuccessful, as the phone lines weren't working properly because of the storm. He then called random numbers in the area, and when someone answered the phone, he asked them if they knew a Mason. After several calls, he finally reached a woman whose neighbor was a Mason. The woman gave Bro. Bill her neighbor's phone number, and despite the twisted phone lines, his call went through correctly. The brother shared that Louisiana's Lodge No. 144 was spared damage from the hurricane, but he promised to find another Mason who could help Bro. Bill to find a lodge in need.

"Ten minutes later, Bro. David Way, who is a District Deputy Grand Lecturer, called me, and I explained to him what I wanted to do," Bro. Bill said. "He put me in touch with Bro. Allen G. Tidwell, P.G.M., Secretary of Slidell Lodge No. 311. He told me about the lodge's damage. The first floor was completely destroyed."

In November, after getting the blessings of the Grand Lodges of Pennsylvania and Louisiana to correspond directly with each other, Bros. Bill and Allen began communicating almost every week. After seeing photographs of the damaged 82-year old lodge building, Pennsylvania Lodges 144, 370, 256, 404, 194, 401 and 224 began collecting funds for Slidell Lodge, which had been flooded with 5' of water and sustained damages totaling more than $62,000.

"I might have started this, but there are other fellows who did their part - Robert Yost, Charles Reiner, Fred Whitman and Marlin Plymette, all Past Masters," Bro. Bill said. "One person took care of the accounts, others collected money from area businesses - it was a good group effort. I thank all the lodge officers and members who made this all possible."

In February, Bro. Bill was ready to make the donation to the Louisiana lodge, but mailing it was out of the question.

"My wife and I discussed it and agreed it would be better to present it in person than to mail it," Bro. Bill said. "We wanted the personal touch."

So on Feb. 2, 2006, Bro. Bill, his wife, Joan, and their dog hopped aboard their motor home and embarked on the 1,171- mile journey to Slidell, La., located on the edge of Lake Pontchartrain 30 miles north of New Orleans.

Bro. Bill and Joan arrived in Slidell on Feb. 5. They stayed in the parking lot of a Sam's Club with other travelers and were met there by Bros. Allen G. Tidwell, P.G.M., Richard A. Mitchell, W.M., and Morris R. Heinzen, S.W., all of Slidell Lodge. They spent the rest of the day together, as well as the next two days, touring the devastated area.

During Slidell's lodge meeting on Feb. 6, Bro. Bill presented the check for $4,091 to Bro. Mitchell. "They were so appreciative," Bro. Bill said. "They all applauded."

After the check presentation, Bro. Bill received something special of his own - he was made an honorary member of Slidell Lodge.

"I never expected that," Bro. Bill said. "It was pretty emotional. It was a great honor. I can't say enough about the fellas down there."

Bro. Allen and others from his lodge are grateful for the generosity of the Pennsylvania Masons.

"We probably wouldn't have been able to do some of the things we had done without the charitable efforts of Bill Crist and his fellow Masons," Bro. Allen said. "It's just so reinforcing of how people feel about one another, especially Masonically."

On Feb. 8, Bro. Bill and his wife began their 1,171-mile journey back to their hometown of Montandon, Pa., leaving behind the destruction of the hurricane but taking with them friendships that will last a lifetime.

"My wife and I made a lot of new Masonic friends," said Bro. Bill, who still keeps in touch with Bro. Allen. "I hope to be able to visit them again, and I hope Allen will come to Pennsylvania."

The whole experience was rewarding for Bro. Bill, and he says he wouldn't hesitate to do it again.

"You just have to remember your obligation - help, aid and assist."

Bro. William Crist, P.M., Lodge No. 144, Lewisburg (fourth from left) traveled to Slidell, La., to present a check to Slidell Lodge No. 311 for the restoration of the lodge, which was damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Pictured with Bro. Crist are members of other lodges that collected donations (from left): Bros. Dale E. Bickhart, W.M., Lafayette Lodge No. 194; Maurice E. Clouser, P.M., Mifflinburg Lodge No. 370; Robert W. Yost, P.M., Charity Lodge No. 144; Timothy T. James, P.M., Milton Lodge No. 256; and Larry L. Roup, W.M., Watsontown Lodge No. 401.

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