…do Masons do in and for their communities?
“To relieve the distressed is a duty incumbent on all men, but particularly on Freemasons, who are linked together by an indissoluble chain of sincere affection. To soothe the unhappy, to sympathize with their misfortunes, to compassionate their miseries, and to restore peace to their troubled minds, is the great aim we have in view. On this basis we form our friendships and establish our connections”.
Illustrations of Masonry, p. 72, William Preston, 1772
Note the date that was originally written…it is not an error in typing. Written over 240 years ago, it addresses Masonic charity just as well today!
Bikes for Books
In the fall of 2006, the Bend Masonic Lodge entered into a partnership with the Bend-La Pine School District to present the Bikes for Books program. In this program, students at District elementary schools can earn entries for a drawing to win a bike by reading 12 books, at their reading level and approved by their teachers.
In the spring of 2007, the Bend Lodge held drawings at thirteen elementary schools in the Bend-La Pine School District. Every student who participated in the program received a certificate, and 29 bikes were awarded. Bike winners were invited to a picnic in June, where most received their bikes.
Over the years since then, Bend Lodge has continued this tradition, and the program has become an event that each school promotes to its students as an incentive to read more. Over 100 bikes have been awarded to students in the Bend-La Pine School District, encouraging thousands of children to read more books.
In 2013, Bend Lodge changed gears and switched the program from the Bend-La Pine School District to the Deschutes County Library system to better provide county-wide exposure. Bikes for Books was promoted in six county-wide libraries, including Sisters, Redmond, Bend (2 branches), Sunriver and La Pine. During the summer of 2013, 3000+ students read at least three hours each, totally more than 9,000 hours of reading! 12 bikes were awarded to the top readers, and Bend Lodge hopes to not only continue the program in 2014, but also increase the number of bikes awarded.
Masonic Child Identification Program (CHIP)
Each year approximately 725,000 children are reported missing in the United States. The Masonic Child Identification Program gives parents the peace of mind that they are prepared for the unthinkable.
As a resource to parents, Bend Masonic Lodge provides free fingerprinting and photo identification for children of all ages. These events generally take place at the county fair and other public safety events throughout Deschutes County each year. Parents also receive an identification sheet that includes space to record a child’s height, weight, eye and hair color, and distinguishing marks. This sheet will be extremely valuable to authorities if a child ever becomes missing or abducted.
The entire process takes only a minute and no information is ever recorded on the computer equipment or forwarded to anyone but that child’s parent(s). And no worry about messy fingers…we use an optical scanner to record images of your childs’ fingerprints!
In addition, parents are provided with instructions on how to take DNA samples from their children, including nail clippings, hair samples and inside-the-mouth cheek swabs. These samples can be kept indefinitely in plastic storage bags in the freezer.
Christmas Basket Program
Each year just before Christmas, Bend Lodge, in partnership with Food 4 Less in Bend, purchases and delivers food baskets to needy families in the Bend area. Family recommendations come from local Family Access Network (FAN) advocates who work in each public school. For the past several years, Bend Lodge has delivered approximately 35-40 of these baskets each Christmas.
These food baskets contain a ham, a turkey, a bag of potatoes, canned vegetables and rolls, enough food to provide a nice meal for six to eight people who might otherwise go without Christmas dinner.
Annual “Honoring Our Veterans” Dinner
Each year around Veteran’s Day, Bend Lodge #139 is both pleased and honored to host a Veteran’s Honor Dinner at the Lodge. It is our small way of taking an opportunity to thank veterans from World War II through Iraq and Afghanistan for their service to their country. The Bend area has a very large and active “Band of Brothers” contingent…click here to visit their website.
For the 2013 event, with the help of the Brethren, the Lodge was able to get the word out to well over 200 veterans who served, or are still serving, in the U.S. military. With the invites out, and the leg work done by the officers of the Lodge, we were pleased to see a turnout that was four times the previous year. With the hall full and the wonderful food served, 2013 Worshipful Master Lee Ransdall introduced our special guests for the evening.
Among the attendees were Shirley Godwin and Lucille Seidenverg, sisters of Major Benjamin F. Wilson, who received the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroics and actions in the Korean War. We were also honored with the presence of Corporal Robert Maxwell, a resident of Bend and the oldest living Congressional Medal of Honor recipient for his heroic actions during World War II. Corporal Maxwell received his Medal of Honor for his risk of life in 1944, when he unhesitatingly hurled himself squarely upon an enemy hand grenade, saving the lives of his comrades in arms.
The head table, complete with its patriotic quilt backdrop, provided by Worshipful Master Ransdall’s wife, Gail, was covered with fascinating historic documents, flags, cartoons and photographs, including one of the presentation to Major Wilson by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Though it is easy to revel in the accomplishments of our key speakers, it was impossible to come away from the evening without heartfelt recognition and a deepened respect for all that each and every service member has done for our nation. We were extremely proud to be able to break bread and fellowship with such upstanding and selfless people.
Annual Eagle Scout Awards Dinner
Each year, Bend Lodge #139 is pleased and honored to host a dinner for Eagle Scouts in Central Oregon. WB Lee Ransdall, PM explains it best in a speech he gave several years ago at one of these dinners:
As we all know, Scouting and Freemasonry are worldwide organizations, both founded on moral principles and sharing many ideals and principles.
The first of these principles, and the foremost membership requirement of each group, is that those who join must profess a belief in a Supreme Being. By not requiring a member’s Supreme Being to be specifically tied to a particular religion, both Scouting and Freemasonry have become attractive to boys and men around the world. Both became a place where people of different faiths can meet in fellowship and harmony, with shared moral values, despite any religious, social, cultural or national differences.
The second moral principle shared by the two organizations is service to others. Freemasonry requires every new member, or initiate, to pledge that they are extensively serviceable to their fellow man. Later in their Masonic progression, on being raised to the third degree, the Freemason takes an obligation that is largely concerned with service to others. Scouting teaches service to others in its Promise and Law. A Scout promises to help other people, ‘…no matter what Country, Class or Creed the other may belong’.
The third moral principle Scouting and Freemasonry have in common is to look after and develop oneself. In Scouting, one learns to always “Do your best” and to “Be Prepared”, to develop young people in achieving their full physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual potential so that they may take a constructive place in society. Freemasonry continues this by offering personal development in the form of a spiritual, but not a religious journey. The degree structure and ritual of Freemasonry emphasizes the Mason’s growth as he progresses from ignorance to enlightenment.
In progressing from the first to the second degree, the Entered Apprentice Freemason learns that Freemasonry has often been described as, “A peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” This explanation simply means that Freemasonry has a dedicated moral code, and communicates this through stories and symbols. Scouting’s moral code is expressed in Scout Law.
Lord Robert Baden Powell used stories, and yarns to communicate his messages especially in his ritual book, “Scouting for Boys” and has used symbols in its uniforms, badges and emblems.
The Freemason’s first-degree obligation requires a candidate to make a promise, in the presence of a Supreme Being and the members of the Lodge, “to keep their honor and to obey a moral code”, and Freemasonry’s commitment to Charity and Brotherly Love parallels the Scout Promise to help other people.
Scouting has given us our moral basis, the values and code that we have sought throughout our lives. It gives us a sense of belonging and purpose through difficult stages of our childhood and adolescence.
From Scouting, we learn responsibility, self-reliance, and the importance of service to others. Freemasonry has given us a vehicle through which we can continue our development and understanding of those same values. It has enabled us to develop our sense of purpose and to build inner strength and resilience…that is why I was a Scout and one of the reasons I became a Mason…
In his final letter to the Scouts, Lord Robert Baden-Powell wrote,
“…I have had a most happy life and I want each one of you to have a happy life too. I believe that God put us in this jolly world to be happy and enjoy life. Happiness does not come from being rich, nor merely being successful in your career, nor by self-indulgence. One step towards happiness is to make yourself healthy and strong while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so you can enjoy life when you are a man. Nature study will show you how full of beautiful and wonderful things God has made the world for you to enjoy. Be contented with what you have got and make the best of it. Look on the bright side of things instead of the gloomy one. But the real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people. Try and leave this world a little better than you found it and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best. ‘Be Prepared’ in this way, to live happy and to die happy — stick to your Scout Promise always — even after you have ceased to be a boy — and God help you to do it.”
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Two new programs currently sponsored by the Oregon Grand Lodge are being considered for local implementation:
Raising a Reader (RAR)
Raising A Reader is an early literacy and family engagement program for children ages 0-8 that helps families develop book-sharing routines with their child.
Raising a Reader’s unique “book cuddling” program teaches parents to use books as a means to connect with their children…helping children learn to read and creating strong family bonds. By giving families tools and support to build a strong educational foundation for their children, Raising a Reader can change the future of thousands of children, their families, and their communities.
Masonic Model Student Assistance Program (MMSAP)
The Masonic Model Student Assistance Program offers a 3-day workshop at no charge to Oregon educators, administrators and school support staff (kindergarten through high school). The purpose is to train school professionals to work as a team to identify and refer “at risk” students who are having difficulty being successful in school.
Contributing factors may include:
- Learning problems
- Socialization issues
- Substance abuse
- Changes in the family
- Peer pressure
- School environment stress
MMSAP involves the whole school community…faculty, staff, parents and students…and all are given the tools to recognize and respond when students experience problems. This program specifically addresses ways to receive referrals, determine the nature of the problem and offer assistance. The success of MMSAP depends on the commitment and involvement of the whole school community.
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