The heart of Freemasonry - relief of need
As Presidents of the main Masonic charities, we welcome the publication of the first issue of the Masonic Quarterly - and through it, the opportunity to address individual Masons.
Freemasons and Charity
Charity lies at the very heart of Freemasonry. Every Mason will remember vividly that moment of discomfort and mild panic at his initiation when he was called on to exercise "that virtue which may justly be denominated the distinguishing characteristic of a Freemason's heart - Charity". Over the centuries, the four central Masonic charities have been formed to provide support for the critical needs of Masons and their dependants: support that includes the education of children; the provision of housing for the elderly or infirm; health care and financial support for those whose resources are inadequate to meet their daily needs.
Although each of the charities has a distinct role, they all share the common purpose - of providing a safety net to individual Masons and their families in times of need.
The main Masonic charities are the Grand Charity, the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (MTGB), the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI) and the New Masonic Samaritan Fund (NMSF). The Grand Charity is the central charity, providing relief for Masons in distress, assisting other Masonic charities and making grants to national non-Masonic charities. The MTGB supports the children of the family of a Freemason, through financial help and by providing an education.
The RMBI provides financial assistance and residential services for elderly and infirm Masons or their dependants. The New Masonic Samaritan Fund assists Freemasons or their dependants in financial need, requiring medical treatment which is not available from the NHS without undue delay and hardship.
These are your charities - your inheritance - and it is the responsibility of all Masons to ensure that, through them, help is available for those in need. Adapting to modern demands endowed and supported by the generosity of generations of Masons, these institutions have evolved into four of the leading UK charities, providing direct support to individuals.
All Masons should be proud of that achievement. But, as Presidents, we need to look to the future. We must ensure that the charities adapt to the changing demands of our time, whilst continuing to provide support for any Mason or his dependants in need.
To do this we must retain the support and confidence of the Craft and ensure that the Masonic charities are efficient and effective. Each of the four charities has a unique role - and they are not in competition with each other. We have been working together to harmonise the operations of the charities, both administratively and in the help given to members of the Craft. We are determined that the charities will become still more efficient and cost-effective and will make the Craft aware of the help that is available, so that no one in need falls through the net.
We will also ensure that all the charities continue to provide the highest standards of care for the Craft. This commitment requires us to undertake a regular re-evaluation of changes and developments in society, of the needs of individual Masons and of the Craft overall. Our charitable services must be adapted accordingly, and we have already made some changes.
In the course of this year, the responsibility for providing the current RMBI annuities will be taken over by the Grand Charity, with the payment of grants to existing recipients being met from investment funds transferred from the RMBI to the Grand Charity.
This step means that the Grand Charity will assume responsibility for all future grants to Freemasons and their dependants, who require financial assistance to help them through difficult times.
Following this reorganisation, the RMBI will be able to concentrate on its central purpose of providing care "in-house" for the elderly and infirm. The RMBI runs 19 residential homes, some of which will require additional facilities to meet the requirements of the Care Standards Act.
All homes will continue to provide the highest levels of care to residents, in a happy and secure environment. To meet the challenge of an increasing demand for facilities from an ageing population, the RMBI is examining the possibility of contracting out care to other high quality care homes.
This would enable the benefits of care to be extended more efficiently than could be achieved by constructing new homes at a high capital cost.
The RMBI is closely associated with the Masonic Housing Association and Compass Housing Association, which provide six sheltered housing schemes for both Masonic and non-Masonic residents.
Five schemes are for rented accommodation and one is a leasehold scheme where 99-year leases are purchased and can then be sold on at market value when no longer required.
The Grand Charity has made grants and loans to Provinces, to provide funding for local sheltered housing schemes.