The Scrip Purse – A column from the Metropolitan Grand Almoner’s Team
W Bro Darrel Palmer PAGSwdB, SLGCR, Metropolitan Grand Almoner
A very warm welcome from the Metropolitan Grand Almoner and his team to our regular feature on Arena. We are looking forward to providing information and interesting stories, this time with a focus on the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), the Freemasons’ charity. The Masonic Support Team at the MCF hosted a highly successful conference for Provincial Grand Almoners (PGAs) last October in Bristol. The event focused on topical issues for the MCF, PGAs and their Almoner teams. It was a great opportunity to learn more about the MCF and the services they have in place for Freemasons and their families. This edition’s Scrip Purse summarises our findings from the event and allows the MCF an opportunity to further inform you about their important work in London and across England and Wales, as well as the types of support the MCF can offer Freemasons.
“As Chief Executive of the MCF, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to reach London Freemasons through the Scrip Purse column,” says W Bro Les Hutchinson PSGD, Chief executive of the MCF, “it is perhaps unsurprising that London, with the highest concentration of Freemasons in the country, receives the largest proportion of our Masonic Support funding. “Hopefully, this column will give you a better understanding of the MCF and give you the reassurance that we are here to support you and your loved ones should you find yourselves in difficult times.”
A conference for Almoners in Bristol
When I got the invitation to the MCF conference last year to represent Metropolitan Grand Lodge, it was met with some excitement and trepidation: excitement, as it was the first in-person conference since 2019 and my appointment as Metropolitan Grand Almoner; and trepidation because, like many of us, I have attended numerous conferences over the years and had no great expectations. Too often, conferences entail two days of boring lectures; thankfully that was not the case this time!
The first day of the conference commenced with RW Bro Sir Paul Williams OBE,PJGW, Deputy President and Chairman of the MCF, and W Bro Dr Simon Fellerman PJGD, Trustee and Chairman of the MCF’s Masonic Support Committee. It was clear to me that this was shaping up to be a very exciting event. This was followed by a presentation given by Bro Paul and Bro Les on the emerging MCF strategy, which gave a very clear insight into the way the MCF is proposing to go forward.
Each day, a variety of topics were openly addressed and sparked insightful discussions. All speakers were very professional and caring, and had a firm grasp of their subject and practical solutions to the challenges faced by PGAs and Almoners.
As the first day drew to a close, I was thinking about how the MCF clearly knows what it’s doing, with the majority of its resources being used to support the wellbeing of our membership in a professional and humane manner. What the conference really helped to show was the ‘human face’ of the MCF.
On the second day, there were many excellent presentations, but I must mention one in particular: given by RW Bro Geoffrey Dearing PProvGM, E Kent, PresBGP, which demonstrated how closely UGLE, the MCF, Metropolitan Grand Lodge and the Provinces are working together to support those of our membership, and their loved ones, who may be in distress. The present staff members of the MCF, the Metropolitan Grand Almoner’s team, and the Provincial Grand Almoners demonstrated pure commitment and enthusiasm. If only I could get across to our members how easy it is to approach the MCF; do not be ashamed to call on them for help, as they are not judgemental and will do their very best to assist.
How would I describe the MCF in three words? “Above and beyond.”
The key thing to note about the MCF is that it is your charity. Since its formation in 2016, the MCF has awarded over £100 million in grants and services to vulnerable Freemasons and their families and to thousands of local and national charities supporting communities across England and Wales.
In the last financial year, the MCF gave almost £1.4 million in grants and support services to Freemasons and family members through 550 grants in London alone. Here’s what else was achieved across England, Wales and the Channel Islands:
What types of support does the MCF provide?
The support available is incredibly varied and can benefit a wide range of people. The MCF wants to ensure that as many people as possible know what it does so that it can build better lives for more Freemasons and family members who need their help.
Could the MCF help you or someone you know?
– Financial issues
Since the beginning of the cost of living crisis, the MCF’s Masonic Support Department has been incredibly busy. Unsurprisingly, it has created increased financial pressures for many families and communities across the country.
Most of the support provided by the MCF takes the form of grants for daily living costs, but it also provides specific grants to assist with household arrears, emergency household repairs, funeral costs, support with rent, and more.
For example, the MCF supported Louise’s family before and after her husband, who was a Freemason, passed away from cancer: “The MCF really looked after my family”, she says. “They organised all the medical equipment that my husband Jason needed, including a hospital bed, an electric scooter and a mobility chair. After he passed, they provided bereavement counselling for my eldest children and me, as well as financial support, to help us out with bills during this period. The help has meant that we have kept our home – without the MCF, I don’t know where we would be.”
– Health, care and wellbeing
As ever, the Masonic Support Team has been looking into ways in which they can expand their support services. At the conference, a spokesperson from the MCF’s independent mental health service provider explained that they are now able to provide support to children or grandchildren of Freemasons aged between 5-16 years old, as this is an increasingly common need for many families.
Helping people access support for their physical health is another incredibly important issue. Leslie, a Freemason, reached out to the MCF after learning that he would need to wait a year for an operation after his prostate cancer diagnosis. “I was speaking to my Lodge about my situation, and they mentioned the MCF’s range of support options. A Visiting Volunteer representing the MCF came to see me at home to help me with my application form, which was really helpful. I was eventually told that the MCF would cover the cost of the operation, and the waiting time was massively reduced. The MCF’s grant literally saved my life.”
As well as grants for medical treatments, the MCF can help cover the costs of mobility aids, dental work, breaks for carers, and more.
– Children, young people and education
Did you know that the MCF supports not only the children of Freemasons, but their grandchildren too? Help is available for young people in education or training which is intended to support their potential and maximise their opportunities. Grants can fund or part-fund computer equipment, educational assessments, school fees, childcare costs, and more.
“When Adam and Amymae came to live with us after their mother became ill,” explains Roy, a Freemason and grandfather to Adam and Amymae, “we didn’t anticipate the extra cost of having two more mouths to feed, taking them on the school run, and the extra electricity we would need to pay for. We started to struggle and decided to turn to the MCF – which I knew about from my years as an Almoner. After a member of the Advice & Support Team came to visit, we received a grant to enable the children to carry on with their extracurricular activities. The children have really benefitted from the support of the MCF; and we are so, so grateful.”
If you find yourself or someone you know needing support, the MCF is here to help. Those seeking support must be a Freemason or have a close family connection to a Freemason and must be able to demonstrate a need for our grants and services, passing a financial assessment.
You can check your eligibility and learn more about our support by visiting https://mcf.org.uk/get-support/ or scanning the QR code (QR1)
To access information and resources helpful for Almoners, visit https://mcf.org.uk/resources/almoner-resources/?lm-page=1, or scan the QR code (QR2)
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 51 April 2023 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 51 here.