By: Ed Mortensen, Secretary
Masonry isn’t just about hanging out as guys and diving into the esoterica of the symbolism of the order; it is also about service and bettering yourself.
One way to do that is to get involved in the community. Not as a recruiting tool, but to be better as a human being and to be of service to our fellow man.
The Master Builder Program
There is an annual award available to Lodges called The Master Builder Program. This is a list of things a Lodge should do to show it is vital and active.
One of the items on the list is service to the community. This service is important enough for the state organization to call it out as a vital activity of a well-functioning Lodge. This is a big hint as to its importance.
Spending Time in the Community
Perhaps the most critical element of charitable works is to spend time in the community.
Some argue that this raises awareness of the Fraternity and is a valuable recruiting tool.
I argue that we aren’t enough about charity to use this as a recruiting vehicle. Community involvement isn’t really what we are about to use as an apt representation of the Fraternity.
Spending time in the community is more about making better men.
Where should this personal time be spent? Well, Damascus Lodge has served breakfast to the homeless community. Here is an excellent example of selfless service.
Another thing we’ve discussed is volunteering at the local Food Bank. This is particularly apt during this time of COVID-19 and the resulting need in the community.
Saint Andrews Lodge keeps up a local Masonic graveyard. Not precisely our target audience, right? But it is service to the memory of Masons that have gone before us.
There are several charities in the community, many of which need bodies to continue their good works.
Spending Money on the Community
Charities also need money to continue to operate. Look at how they spend their money and how much goes directly to their work. Some have such massive overhead that they might not be the most effective way to spend the modest amount of money we have that is available to the community.
One thing Damascus has discussed is, again, the local Food Bank. $500 is a big chunk of our available funds but will go a long way to helping the community. A Food Bank can really stretch a dollar, and it would be money well spent by the Lodge.
Damascus also has something that other Lodges don’t have, the Condie Fund. The Bruce and Katy Condie Fund sets aside up to $6,000 a year to serve the community, $500 from there for a Food Bank is an excellent way to spend that money. The Condie Fund also benefits local college students, especially those related to Masons. Both of these make a significant impact.
CHIP ID and Bikes for Books
Two initiatives by the Grand Lodge are the CHIP ID program and the Bikes for Books program.
Both of these serve the local community.
The CHIP ID program works with local law enforcement to record data like photos and fingerprints of community youth should the worst happen and go missing. Here is a packet of information that parents keep should this ever happen. The cost is relatively low, and a booth can be set up at a local fair.
Despite the name, this program is not a data chip like that which is injected in a pet.
One argument is that it raises awareness of the Fraternity, but I argue that that is not the program’s primary value.
The other is the Bikes for Books program. This encourages literacy by entering students into a lottery for each book they read during the school year.
There is much debate in the Lodge about how effective this is, who it really benefits, and how. We haven’t reached a consensus about this, but it is on our radar.
Utah County Taxes
Something that has just come up is that Utah County is moving to start charging property taxes on non-profit organizations’ buildings.
We need to be able to argue that we are doing service to the county’s population and charities if we are going to effectively argue against such taxes.
These taxes are not budgeted for and would either dramatically raise our dues or risk losing our building.
By tracking dollars and time spent in the community, we might prove our value and convince the county to waive these taxes.
This is closely watched by the Grand Lodge since other Counties may follow Utah County to tax our Lodge buildings.
If we spend money on taxes, we have much less to spend in the community.