The astonishing munificence of Freemasonry was on public show when the Blackpool Group of lodges and chapters staged its annual Charity Giving Night at Blackpool Masonic Hall and at which over £34,000 was distributed to local and national charities. “It is a phenomenal sum and an aspect of Freemasonry that goes unrecognised by the majority of the general public”, commended Pete Mercer of the Fylde Coast Carers Centre, one of the many worthy recipients that were present on the evening. Pete gratefully received a total of £3,420 on behalf of the Centre, all of which had been raised from donations by lodges and chapters within the Blackpool Group and from the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity.
Amongst the many other grateful beneficiaries were Trinity Hospice and its children’s wing Brian House who received a total of £6,848, the North West Air Ambulance benefited to the tune of £3,825 and Blackpool Victoria Hospital was presented with cheques amounting to £2,675.
But not all the charities received four-figure sums. Many of the beneficiaries received more modest donations but all were equally grateful for the assistance. Joe Comerford is one of four people who organise and administer a small charity called ‘Miles of Smiles’ and his response on being presented with £250 was: “The generosity of the Freemasons is overwhelming and the donations make a huge difference to so many smaller charities.” Based in Leyland, Miles of Smiles organises special treats, or ‘smiles’, for youngsters who have experienced some form of hardship; be it personal illness, bereavement, or family disability and who need and deserve a smile in their lives.
In all, some 55 charities benefited from the money raised by lodges and chapters in the Blackpool Group and representatives of the majority of the organisations attended the ‘Giving Night’ to receive their due cheques and to provide a short synopsis on how the money will be applied.
The evening was honoured by the presence of the Mayor of Blackpool, Councillor Val Haynes and her consort Alan Haynes, former MP for Blackpool Paul Maynard, the Honorary Life President of the Blackpool Civic Trust Elaine Smith MBE and chairman of the Trust Joan Humble and the Head of Heritage at Blackpool Council Heather Morrow.
In his opening address to a full hall, Chairman of Blackpool Group Peter Bentham extended a warm welcome to the dignitaries and made mention of the fact that Freemasonry is fairly unique in raising money for charities. “There is no standing in the streets; no rattling of collection tins, no pleas to the general public. The donations are raised entirely from amongst the members and families in the fraternity of Freemasonry.” He went on to elucidate on some of the major disasters throughout the world to which Freemasonry had provided emergency aid. “Just one of the many advantages of such donations from the United Grand Lodge of England is that they are instant, within a matter of only a few days of a tragedy occurring” he said.
Supporting Peter and the members of the Blackpool Group was the Provincial Grand Charity Steward Glynn Wrennal, Second Provincial Grand Principal in the Royal Arch Peter Elmore and Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals David Randerson. Chatting to the brethren who were present at the event the Provincial dignitaries thanked them for their generosity and hard work. “Your efforts are a credit to you individually and Freemasonry in general”, they applauded.
In circulating the exhibition room in which the charities attending had erected display stands, the dignitaries and the brethren and their guests learnt about many of the small local organisations that benefited from the group’s donations. A clear message that came from all of the charities was that they were enormously grateful for the help given by Freemasonry and were full of praise for the magnificent sum raised.
Nevertheless, the most memorable aspect of the evening was learning of the wonderful work done by all the charities and the assurances that all the donations are so faithfully applied.