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Masons Care and Will Always Be There! Veterans in hospitals countrywide know those words are meant for them and they appreciate that it's far more than a slogan. They are watchwords for the Hospital Visitation Program for the Masonic Service Association (M.S.A.).
Freemasonry in Pennsylvania has been an active supporter of M.S.A. since its founding and a participant in M.S.A.'s Hospital Visitation Program from its inception. Pennsylvania Masons have contributed most generously, not only with financial support but, just as important, also with vital volunteer humanitarian support amounting to thousands of hours. The Executive Director of M.S.A., Richard E. Fletcher, M.W.P.G.M., emphasizes the value of that time, noting ". . . however many (hours) you accumulate, they still come one at a time." The volunteers are totally dedicated. As one aptly stated, "When called upon, our veterans responded to help our nation; now it's our turn!"
The Masonic Service Association came into being in 1919. During World War I, it had been the wish of many Grand Lodges to have a "home away from home" atmosphere for military personnel, but the federal government would not work with 49 (at the time) Grand Lodges. As a result of that decision by the government, M.S.A. was formed by the grand lodges of the United States. In World War II, a series of Masonic Service Centers (including five in Pennsylvania -- in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Williamsport, and Towanda) were begun around the country and two overseas. Masonic Service Centers operated in a manner similar to U.S.O.s and were indeed a "home away from home" for military personnel.
After World War II, the focus changed from Masonic Service Centers to volunteering in Veterans Administration Hospitals. At the latest count, M.S.A. has Masonic Hospital Visitors in 157 V.A. centers around the country, approximately 25 state Veterans Homes, and numerous military hospitals.
The intent of the Masonic Hospital Visitor is to provide comfort to veterans who are patients. There is no distinction made as to race, creed, color, or ethnic origin. As long as they are veterans, a member of an M.S.A. team visits them. There are comfort items provided to patients and many things of a non-medical nature are done to help. M.S.A. does not provide any medical treatment, but rather offers comfort and care where needed.
It's Easy to be a Hospital Visitor
It's very easy to be a Masonic Hospital Visitor. All you need is compassion, care, and a desire to help others. The needs in the VA Hospitals are endless and the Veterans Administration Voluntary Service is the first to acknowledge that without volunteers, the VA would never be able to provide the level of service it does. The M.S.A., for example, provides approximately 250,000 volunteer hours per year and several thousand of those hours occur in Pennsylvania.
The motto for MSA Volunteers is "Find the need and help." M.S.A. provides basic guidelines, but there is no standard formula that can be used in every hospital. Volunteers do many things; some work with skilled medical caregivers, some do office work, some visit in the wards, some help patients go from outpatient clinics admission to where their place of treatment is, some volunteer in the pharmacy, some in the post office, some enjoy working on the grounds. If you look, you will find a need in a VA Hospital.
If you want to volunteer, write to Masonic Service Association, Hospital Visitation Program, 8120 Fenton St., Suite 203, Silver Spring, MD 20910; or call (301) 588-4010; or fax (301) 608-3457; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. To check the M.S.A. web site, visit www.msana.com.