One of the basic principles of Freemasonry is to help those less fortunate than yourself.
In a presentation to over 130 ladies and brethren, held in Wyrebank, Garstang, Ernie Greenhalgh the Provincial Almoner explained the role of the almoner, which he said was: “a vital part of lodge life – not only to provide help for financial needs but to ensure the well-being of Masons and their dependants”
The presentation was the first of many more to be held around the Province over the next year, as Ernie said he wants to ensure that as many brethren, wives and partners know what help is available to them and how they can ask for help with complete confidentiality.
The meeting was opened by Jim Wilson the Lancaster Group Chairman, who thanked everyone for taking the time to attend the presentation. He then handed over to Ernie who started by saying: “Many of our brethren are unaware of the work the almoner carries out – apart from giving a report in lodge.
It is my opinion that the role of the almoner has over the last decade become far too onerous and time consuming.”
He continued: “Every year Freemasons help 1,000s of people in need. How? By donating £1,000,000s to charitable causes. Something I believe all Freemasons should be proud of.”
Ernie then went on to talk about the work the four national charities do, ranging from large grants to fund Medical research through to support for people in a variety of difficult situations, including serious illness, disability, homelessness, poverty and deprivation.
He also spoke about the support the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity offer to both Freemasons and their dependants as well as individuals, organisations and local charities that support our community.
Ernie spoke passionately about Pastoral Care. He said many older people never see a soul, sometimes for three or four days and all they have is a TV for company. He said his wish was that all almoners should be making home visits. Having a cup of tea and a chat – means a world to a lonely person.
He continued: “Despair can be perhaps a young couple with a couple of kids and then the marriage breaks down, that ladies life is probably destroyed while the children are in education.” But he explained help can be available as the Grand Charity helps Freemasons and their families through difficult times. Grants are made towards essential daily living expenses, unexpected needs of financial distress caused by bereavement, accident, redundancy or other personal crisis.
He then played a video recorded by Esther Rantzen, who spoke about the similarity between the work of the almoner and the Silver Line Charity, which is the only free confidential helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people, open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
Ernie then spoke about the central Masonic charities merging in April 2016. The merger will have one support team which will give an improved application process leading to a quicker and more efficient turn round of the decision making process. In addition, a single IT system will enable the care team in the Province to react in a quicker and more positive manner.
The new care system was then explained, Ernie said: “I am confident the new system will improve not only the administration, but the service we give to our widows, brethren and families. The lodge and chapter almoners will now be able to concentrate on being that link between Freemasonry and its members, together with the widows who at times need someone just to talk to about everyday topics.”
After answering questions from the audience Ernie asked Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison to make some closing remarks.
Tony started by thanking Ernie for his hard work putting together the new care system over the last 18 months and for the wonderful ‘ Freemasonry in the community’ presentation.
He also thanked Provincial Publicity Officer Mark Holloway for his help in putting together the presentation and Martin Maynard for his production of the videos shown in the presentation.
Tony said he fully supported the new care system, which he said would be the cornerstone for care in the Province for at least the next decade.
He also said that he hoped that every member and all the members of their family are made aware of the new ‘passport for the future’ that gives the telephone number of Freemasonry Cares so that if they need help they can call and ask for help, knowing the request will be held in confidence and passed to care team in the Province within 24 hours.
Tony concluded by saying that he hoped that as many brethren, wives and partners in the Province attend the presentations that are going to be held around the Province in the coming months.