Issue 1: Autumn/Winter 2016
Support for Freemasons and families
We provide different types of support for each family. For some, we award a one-off grant to fund a piece of equipment. For others, our assistance is required for longer and occasionally we look after a family for several years.
Every story is very different but our help – whether provided for the short, medium or long-term – always has a lasting impact. We vow to support each family for as long as they need us.
“Oh, I am so grateful,” says Gladys, her bright blue eyes crinkling around the edges as she smiles.
We are in a care home, sat in the bright and airy bedroom that Gladys calls her own. A comfortable-looking green armchair takes pride of place in the centre of the room. The chair is positioned facing a window which overlooks the London skyline.
“In my nineties, I wasn’t able to go upstairs in my house anymore,” says Gladys, who recently celebrated her 103rd birthday. “After my husband died, I lived in the kitchen. I had terrible back trouble and used an easy chair, but eventually it wore out. I didn’t have enough money to heat the house, let alone buy a new chair.”
Gladys’ husband was a Freemason. He was introduced to the Craft by the owner of the company at which he worked for his whole life. It was Gladys’ nephew, Ron – also a Freemason – that took the first step in seeking help when Gladys needed it. He got in touch with his lodge Almoner who visited Gladys and put her in touch with the MCF.
Gladys talks fondly of her Almoner, Sassoon. She says: “He is a lovely, friendly man. He made a big fuss of me on my recent birthday!”
Initially, Gladys was reluctant to ask for help. She and her husband had always been self-sufficient and she felt that there were more deserving cases. But Gladys was told that the MCF exists for cases just like hers and once she understood that her mobility needs and financial situation made her eligible for support, she agreed to apply.
“The application process was so simple,” says Gladys. “I was never made to feel that I was asking for help.
We provided Gladys with a rise and recline chair within a few weeks. When she moved into the care home she took it with her.
“I spend part of most evenings in my chair and sleep in it every night,” says Gladys. “I honestly don’t know what I’d do without it. It has made all the difference to my later years.”
Every year, the MCF supports hundreds of widows like Gladys. Our offer of support for a Freemason’s family does not end once he has passed away.
Freemason leaves the family home. When Clare’s marriage ended, she was left alone to care for her children, Henry, Polly, Flora and Oscar, who were all under the age of eight at the time.
With an unexpectedly reduced income and sole responsibility for childcare, Clare wasn’t sure how they would manage. It was a very stressful time for the whole family, made worse when they lost their house soon after.
“I had no home, no husband and no money. I truly did not know how I was going to cope. But then my local lodge Almoner got in touch and told me about the Masonic Charitable Foundation.”
We provided a package of support to alleviate the financial pressure the family was facing and reduce the negative impact on the children’s education. The package included grants towards daily living costs and specific grants for school trips, computers and extra-curricular activities. Our support meant Clare’s children had access to the same opportunities as their friends.
Clare’s voice emanates pride when she talks about all that her children have achieved.
After Sheila had a stroke, her mobility was severely affected. Gradually, some of her movement came back but she was still dependent on her husband, Dave, for personal care. Dave, who has been a Freemason for over two decades, recalls their story.
“It was a very frustrating time for us both. Our local authority had provided a stool for Sheila to sit on in the bath – but she couldn’t get in the bath in the first place! I had to help her climb in and then stay with her in case she fell. Once we got in touch with the Masonic Charitable Foundation, all the pressure was taken off of us. We were guided every step of the way, firstly by the Advice & Support Team, and then by the grants team.
Sheila has early-onset dementia and Alzheimer’s as well as osteoporosis. She is highly dependent on her Freemason husband, Ian, for every aspect of her care. Unfortunately, Ian is currently undergoing treatment for cancer which makes caring for his wife very difficult at times.
“When you care for someone like Sheila, you don’t get a single minute to yourself. We applied for respite care through the local council but the grant they offered was not enough to afford anything suitable.
“After a visit from Judy, who is a member of the Advice & Support Team, the Masonic Charitable Foundation granted us funding for six weeks of respite care which we can use whenever we need it. It takes away the tension and helps us both feel more relaxed.
“In fact, it’s not just having the respite breaks – simply knowing that the option is there helps us through the more difficult times. To be able to go away for a week and not worry about anything takes the pressure away and allows us to focus on other important things.”
Steve, a Freemason, has severe lung problems that affect his whole body as well as pulmonary hypertension which is a terminal blood vessel disorder.
“I was struggling. I couldn’t go out. I couldn’t walk more than 15 feet. I never had fresh air and I sat in the dining room for months on end, watching daytime TV and looking out at the rain. I couldn’t visit my daughters and I relied on a friend of mine to take me to lodge meetings.
“I fell down the stairs two or three times, and it was at this point that my Almoner suggested I apply to the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
“The MCF provided a stairlift which has meant I haven’t had any more falls, as well as a mobility scooter which means I can travel with my oxygen tank with ease. The MCF also pays for yearly services and insurance against faults which gives me peace of mind. My friends and daughters live within two miles and once I’m on the scooter I can go wherever I like!
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