Faced with the greatest global pandemic in living memory, Freemasons came together in 2020 and donated a total of £1m as well as their time to help those in need.
The donations were used to help communities in various critical areas, including foodbanks, support for unpaid carers, personal protective equipment (PPE), supplies for hospitals and hospices, support for women’s refuges, and funds for NHS workers, ambulances and equipment.
Freemasons also worked 18 million hours as volunteers in a range of different areas, where there was a need, including driving vulnerable people to hospital, preparing meals, taking care of people at risk, organising care packages, producing scrubs, PPE and hand sanitiser.
At the start of the crisis in April 2020, some Freemasons adapted their businesses’ production lines to produce nearly 5,000 visors for use in healthcare settings. Since then, Freemasons have produced or procured tens of thousands of pieces of additional PPE.
Meanwhile, to help protect women and children from domestic abuse, Freemasons donated more than £165,000 in 2020. The donation helped more than 2,000 women during the lockdown, who received more than 1,000 parcels containing essential items for women fleeing domestic abuse.
Freemasons also focused their efforts on hospitals and care homes, donating nearly 1,000 tablets to provide vital contact between coronavirus patients and their loved ones. The tablets were provided to more than 50 hospitals, care homes and hospices. In London, hospitals including The Royal London, Queen Mary's and St Thomas' received approximately 115 tablets; while in Kent, Surrey and Sussex, some 200 tablets were donated.
Elsewhere, to support thousands of families struggling during the crisis, Freemasons donated 300,000 meals and 38 tonnes of food to homeless people, women’s refuges and vulnerable people, supporting more than 120,000 people in total. Moreover, £560,000 was donated to provide meals and help numerous foodbanks.
Dr David Staples, chief executive of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), said: “No one in this day and age should have to worry where their next meal is coming from. We are so glad that we were able to provide thousands of families across the UK with a hot meal or food donations to help get them through this current crisis. Freemasons have achieved all of this in just a few months and have also given their time to produce and deliver food to the vulnerable.”
The UGLE is also encouraging its members to roll up their sleeves and volunteer to help vaccinate the population. “More than 18.5 million hours of volunteer work were undertaken by Freemasons. Now it is crucial that we help in every way we can to protect the population. If the NHS needs volunteers, then we are happy to emphasise the importance of this to our members,” said Dr Staples.
He continued: “Our response to the Pandemic shows what Freemasonry is all about; supporting those in need, giving back to our communities and volunteering where it can make a real difference. Freemasons have been doing this for over 300 years and I am proud of the time and commitment that our members have given to support the nation in its fight against Covid-19.”
In addition to the £1m donated in 2020, the Freemasons have committed a further fund of £2.1m to support the ongoing Covid-19 crisis response. Of that £2.1m, £850,000 has been allocated to support homeless people through several charities with which UGLE partners. More than 40,000 homeless individuals are being provided with food and essentials, transport, help with accessing services such as counselling and healthcare, as well as employment and training opportunities.
The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) has launched its first annual report, in its 300 year history, marking another major step forward in its commitment to modernisation, transparency and normalization.
The annual report includes the new mission statement, which sits alongside the UGLE’s four key values of integrity, respect, friendship and charity. In addition, a recent study found that 75% of Freemasons take part in civic or charitable activities, compared to only 31% of non-Freemasons, in a matched geodemographic profile.
Dr David Staples, chief executive of the UGLE, said: “Our first ever annual report is a major step ahead for the organisation in terms of the transparency and normalisation of Freemasonry, we want to tell the public who we are and what we do. This year, we have raised more than £42m for charity and given more than 18.5 million hours of our time in unpaid social and civic volunteering. I am enormously proud to serve an organisation with such a story to tell.”
The vast majority of the beneficiaries of charitable grants from Masonic charities are not themselves Freemasons. In fact, 90% of the donations are given to thousands of projects and people across the country to provide relief from suffering, misfortune and poverty. Only 10% of the total money disbursed goes to UGLE members and families, on a means-tested basis.
During the pandemic, it was gratifying to discover that fewer than 2% of the UGLE membership were actively considering leaving Freemasonry. The UGLE had planned for a significantly higher drop in membership, comprising those leaving because of financial hardship and those sadly passing away. Instead, the vast majority are greatly looking forward to things returning to normal and to resuming their Masonic lives.
Elsewhere, many members responded magnificently to the crisis, raising £3m for those in need across the UK, via the Covid Community Fund. In the early days of the pandemic, the group prioritised the need for personal protective equipment, food-based projects and the supply of tablets to hospitals and nursing homes to enable Covid-19 sufferers to contact family members. Now, the project is focusing on helping homeless people, young carers and mental health projects.
The essence of Freemasonry is the practise of charity. It is so inextricably linked that every Lodge meeting includes a charity collection and every Lodge and Province has a charity steward, who is responsible for coordinating the financial commitments and voluntary actions of the members. Many of the charitable efforts of the UGLE and its members are channelled through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, the Freemasons’ primary charitable grant-giving body.
Among other charities that the UGLE is actively supporting is the Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research (FFSR), which supports the Research Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) with grants each year to pursue cutting-edge research work, which might otherwise not have been funded. For more than 50 years, the FFSR has supported much groundbreaking research and many of the Fellows have gone on to distinguished careers.
In addition to the RCS, the Freemasons also support Lifelites, which gives life-limited and disabled children in hospices the chance to play and be creative, through the power of assistive technology.
Since taking over as CEO of the 200,000-member UGLE, Dr Staples has targeted many improvements within the organisation. “The challenges I have set myself are to improve the public perception and understanding of Freemasonry, and to improve the administration of the organisation, modernising our systems and processes within this context,” he explained.
In the last few years therefore, Freemasons have been busy modernising and launching campaigns inviting the public to experience the world of Freemasonry. As a result, since 2018 the public’s perception of Freemasonry has improved significantly, according to external opinion surveys.
“All the effort and transparency has brought surprising results. Recent research showed that one in four people would consider joining Freemasonry today. The change is significant, because in 2018, the result of the same survey was one in ten,” explained Dr Staples.
The same research showed that those aged 18-34 are the most favourable towards the organisation, suggesting a real opportunity exists to engage and attract a newer, younger membership. Looking to these segments of the public, the UGLE has done much in recent years to encourage younger men, such as establishing the Universities Scheme and the New and Young Masons Clubs. Currently, the Universities Scheme has approximately 3,500 subscribing members.
Furthermore, a new cafe is opening next year within Freemasons Hall, with the objective of allowing the general public to experience the historic building, alongside new digital tours and a brand new visitors’ shop.
Improvements are also being made in communications. For the first time, the UGLE is able to talk directly and regularly with its membership, and a planned member survey will ensure that Freemasons will have be able to provide feedback directly to the organisation.
Further modernisation is underway with Project Hermes, a modern and simple web-based system to be used by Lodge and Chapter secretaries, which will transform the way in which the organisation is administered and mark an end to lengthy, manual form-filling processes. One of the major design principles of Hermes is that it must be intuitive and easy to operate, similar to using an online banking system.
Looking further ahead, an important milestone to be celebrated is the consecration of Lodge number 10,000, which will be duly heralded next year. That and other upcoming events will offer the UGLE the chance to match its Tercentary celebration in 2017 at the Royal Albert Hall. These occasions demonstrate the richness and importance of the Freemasons’ history and heritage, as well as the essential benevolence of the organisation’s core values and teachings – all while showcasing the fun side of Freemasonry.
Freemasons are leading a project to help up to 33,000 adult, young and parent carers, with donations of more than £715,000.
According to Carers UK, the number of carers grew exponentially during the pandemic, reaching more than 13 million. The helping hand from the Freemasons is supporting them with essential items, life skills, counselling, crisis support, activities and breaks.
Approximately 20,000 unpaid carers are receiving access to crucial support online, funded by the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), the governing body of the Freemasons.
The UGLE is also working to protect young carers, who are under increasing pressure as they support family members during lockdown.
In particular, the Freemasons project is providing 870 young carers with respite through activities and breaks, while 760 young carers are being provided with essential items and life skills. Elsewhere, almost 100 schools are receiving assistance to identify hidden young carers and provide support.
In total, more than 1,800 young carers are receiving advice, support and information.
In addition to their support for young carers, the Freemasons are providing funding for crisis support, advice and information to almost 3,000 adult carers. Meanwhile, the project is also assisting 1,050 parent carers with advice and support.
Dr David Staples, chief executive of the UGLE, said: “These have been very difficult times for everyone and especially for carers. With the donations, we are helping with training, counselling, support, mental and physical health, as well as activities to reduce stress.
“We want to recognise the enormous contribution carers make to families and communities throughout the UK. They do their best because they want to make a difference and care deeply for their family members.”
The inaugural celebration of NHS, Social Care and Frontline Workers’ Day is set to take place on 5 July 2021, with Freemasons leading the event.
The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), the governing body for Freemasons, is inviting its 200,000 members to fly specially designed flags at 10am on 5 July, to celebrate this unique day dedicated to the NHS, social care and all those that work on the front line, who have saved so many lives during the pandemic. The celebration will also remember those workers we sadly lost.
The UGLE is one of the core supporters of the event alongside the Cadet Forces, English Heritage and the Women’s Institute. A £5 donation from every flag and length of bunting made will be equally divided between NHS Charities Together and the National Care Association.
Freemasonry for Women and the Order of Women Freemasons have also joined the UGLE in this initiative, as Freemasons aim to set a record for the number of flags raised simultaneously across the nation.
Subsequently, at 11am, Freemasons are planning a moment’s silence to remember NHS workers and all those who died from Covid-19. The day continues with a toast to the NHS at 1pm, raising a cuppa to the NHS during afternoon tea at 3pm, followed by an address to the nation at 6pm.
At 8pm, the Freemasons will join the nation in an evening clap for NHS workers, while church bells are set to ring 73 times to celebrate 73 years of the NHS. Closing the celebrations at 9pm, there will be a #timetotoast for all NHS workers.
So far, nearly 37 Lodges and Provinces have made a commitment to the raising of the flag and other elements of the day. In addition, Northumberland Freemason, Nicholas Deakin, is hosting a special live streaming theatre show from the Tyne Theatre & Opera House with compere, comics, singers, reading, video footage and messages of support to raise money on the day.
Bruno Peek, pageant master to the Queen and creator of NHS, Social Care and Frontline Workers Day, said: “We are delighted that Freemasons, whose members come from all walks of life, are playing such a high profile and active role to start this special day of celebration and commemoration of those within the NHS, Social Care and on the Frontline who undertake so much for us all, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and fifty two weeks a year, without any thought of their own safety.”
In addition, Dr David Staples, chief executive of the UGLE, and a Consultant in Acute Internal Medicine at Peterborough Hospital, said: “We are facing the greatest global pandemic in living memory, and the NHS has never been so tested in its history. Its staff have been stretched beyond comprehension over the last year and they deserve our gratitude, our applause and all the support we can give.
We are encouraging not only our 200,000 members, but the entire population to celebrate the day honouring and remembering the NHS workers with a complete programme of events on 5 July.”
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Freemasons have been supporting the NHS in a great many different ways. They have donated more than £2.5m so far to the Covid effort and complete 18.5 million hours of volunteering to help those in need each year. The donation is being used to help with food, personal protective equipment (PPE), supplements for hospitals and hospices, funds for NHS workers and ambulances.
Freemasons have also offered their Lodges as bases to administer the vital vaccinations. In Hertfordshire, for example, Halsey Hall is being used as a vaccination centre, supporting three local GP surgeries. The centre has been operational since 15 January and once fully scaled up, there will be up to 1,000 vaccinations given there each day.
Pictured front row are David Pratt and Sharon Miller the CEO of the CHSF, with, from left Lisa Williams, community fundraising manager, Andrew Cole, Carl Woodier holding Bella Rhodes, John Golden and Andrew Simpson
Parents of children undergoing heart surgery in a Leeds hospital will be able to sleep on site in comfort, thanks to a significant donation from the region’s Freemasons.
The Children’s Heart Surgery Fund has been given £29,148 to refurbish and furnish seven family accommodation rooms within Leeds Congenital Heart Unit.
Around 17,000 babies, children and adults with congenital heart disease are treated as outpatients by the Leeds Congenital Heart Unit (LCHU) every year.
Many are admitted to the hospital for surgery and family accommodation is available that keeps parents and siblings near to patients during what is a traumatic time for all.
The grant, from the Freemasons’ Province of Yorkshire West Riding’s Provincial Grand Master’s Fund, will see all the rooms brought to a warm and welcoming standard, with the refurbishment extending to a full redecoration, new carpets, lighting and blinds along with new beds, seating and wash sinks.
The rooms provide a secure space for parents, and meet not only their physical needs, but take into consideration their emotional well-being and mental health needs.
The Children’s Heart Surgery Fund was one of five ‘major grants’ totalling £111,000 given to good causes across its geographical region, which stretches from Sheffield in the South to Ripon in the North, and Goole in the East to Waddington in the West.
Whilst major grants from this fund, ranging from £5,000 upwards are awarded annually, its minor grants, which have a ceiling of £5,000, are awarded quarterly.
She spent much of Christmas in the unit, located in Leeds General Infirmary, after undergoing open heart surgery, and faces more operations in the future.
Carl said: “Having first-hand experience of Leeds Congenital Heart Unit, and the way the fantastic team there has looked after Bella and her parents, I wanted to do something in return.
“After learning they were raising funds to upgrade the on-site family accommodation, I asked if Chevin Lodge would apply for a major grant from the Provincial Grand Master’s fund.
“To say I’m delighted is an understatement. Charity is at the heart of Freemasonry, and this grant will enable countless families of children needing heart surgery stay on site, and in comfort.”
Sharon Milner, Chief Executive of the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund said that the charitable generosity of Freemasons was very much appreciated, and that the grant had made an immediate impact and the results can already be seen in the upgraded accommodation.
David S Pratt, Provincial Grand Master and Head of Freemasonry of the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding, said: “The Freemasons of Yorkshire West Riding are delighted to have the opportunity to support the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund and the fantastic work they do to enhance the quality of care and support provided to children undergoing surgery and their families.
“We hope the funds will enable the refurbishment of the parents’ accommodation at the Leeds Congenital Heart Unit to be completed and make the families who need to stay there as comfortable as possible.”