The bonds of brotherhood reigned supreme in Philadelphia on August 22. It was a day that Masons will remember for a long time -- first historically, because three distinguished members of the Pennsylvania State Police were made Masons-at-Sight; impressively, for the outstanding conferral by the three Pennsylvania State Police Masonic Degree Teams; and emotionally for the grand spirit of fraternalism that pervaded the day's activities.
Following is my message delivered at the banquet held in the historic Wanamaker Building celebrating that important event and honoring the Masons.
Today, Pennsylvania Masons and law enforcement officers added a new page to the history of Philadelphia. The Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, Colonel Paul J. Evanko; Deputy Commissioner, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph H. Westcott; and Trooper Roberto Soto were made Masons-at-Sight.
It is fitting that this memorable event took place in our historic Masonic Temple in the City of Brotherly Love and the Cradle of Liberty ... famous for so many dedicated Brethren, like Benjamin Franklin who served twice as Grand Master of Masons ... and where many Masons were among the signers of the Constitution of the United States. This evening, we join in fellowship in this building, a national historic site that bears the name of a renowned merchant and philanthropist, Brother John Wanamaker.
Masonry in America grew up in Philadelphia. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania lays claim to being the oldest in America.
It is evident that, nearly three centuries later, the brotherhood exists in this, the oldest, largest, greatest, and most charitable Fraternity in the world. The participation of so many Brethren -- especially the law enforcement officers who are friends, associates, and co-workers of our new Masons -- is a testimony to the solidarity of brotherhood.
Freemasonry and Law Enforcement are a perfect match; they naturally come together as a band of brothers. Both are prestigious groups with men of quality . . . both espouse the highest of principles and values . . . we are elite groups of professional men; both stand for the same high qualities, not only in our careers, but also in our personal lives.
As Masons, we have tremendous opportunities to make favorable and progressive impacts on our communities. That is why the Grand Lodge put a Matching Grants Program with hometown-impact in place this year. Pennsylvania's 151,000 Masons in the 484 lodges throughout 66 of our 67 counties are encouraged to be directly involved in local charity and hometown improvement projects. The lodges commit their time and funds and Grand Lodge matches the money, up to $5,000 a year, making it possible for each of the lodges to double its hometown charitable contributions.
After only six months since the program was announced, there had been 386 perfect matches for grants totalling nearly $284,000. That means that there are well over a half-million dollars available to benefit communities across the state. Many of the grants are for community improvement programs, some including help to support and buy equipment for law enforcement agencies.
This year the Grand Lodge established a new Law Enforcement Scholarship Program. In the Spring, the first four scholarships were awarded. Two high school graduates planning careers in law enforcement were granted $2,500 a year for four years; and two who already are in college were granted $2,500 a year until their graduation.
The Pennsylvania Masonic Foundation for Children is closely allied to law enforcement. All of you should know the Executive Director, Bro. Joe Witte, a former Philadelphia police lieutenant. He has several dynamic programs actively combatting the scourge of drug and alcohol abuse.
You know about D.A.R.E. and the dedicated job it does in teaching drug resistance to youth. What you also should know is that our Masonic Conference Center on the Patton Campus in Elizabethtown is now the Center for D.A.R.E. Training in Pennsylvania, so designated by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. We're proud of the association and the success of the program. Since 1994, 387 officers have been trained there to teach fifth and sixth grade students about the dangers of drugs, how to "Say No to Drugs," and ways to resist peer pressure.
For an even longer time -- since 1985 -- more than 10,000 educators have been trained at the same facilities at the Masonic Conference Center for the Pennsylvania Department of Education's Student Assistance Program. It has been stated by a Department official that, "Without the help of the Masons there wouldn't be a Student Assistance Program in Pennsylvania."
As an adjunct to the Student Assistance Program, the Foundation for Children awards scholarships to high school seniors who had been at-risk, but turned their lives around as a result of participating in the Student Assistance Program. Since 1993, 26 young people have been awarded four-year scholarships of $1,000 a year.
Masons care! The world is a better place because of what we do -- in Freemasonry and in law enforcement.
Law and order, security, and peace of mind reigns in our communities because of your dedication, loyalty, devotion, and often valor. As a law enforcement officer, you live and work in an environment that is like a fraternity unto itself, relying upon each other in virtually everything you do -- for your success, your safety, and sometimes even your survival. It is a unique kinship -- bonded as a "brotherhood with a purpose" -- to keep and protect your fellow man and uphold the principles of liberty and justice.
We are all proud to be involved in law enforcement and in Freemasonry.
Thank you for being here today. You have all come here not only to be part of a memorable occasion, but to extend your hands in a token of friendship and brotherly love to Brothers Evanko, Westcott and Soto. It is my personal honor and privilege to greet them as "Brothers" in our Ancient and Honorable Fraternity.
Sincerely and fraternally,