Florence: Brothers help brothers and others after the storm


‘I have no words …’

When the Going Gets Tough, Brothers Help Out

By Beth Grace

Mason Editor

There are angels among us.

If you need proof, ask the dozens of brothers, lodges and others who learned what brothers can do to help in the wake of Hurricane Florence. Cards and calls from those helped by a new disaster fund create in the wake of the storm are pouring into the Grand Lodge.

“I have no words to express my deep gratitude to all of you,” wrote Sylvia, an eastern North Carolina woman who received a gift from the Masonic Disaster Fund created after the storm. “I have had many struggles in my life, but at 80 years of age, I cannot describe the emotional toll this has taken.

“It is a terrible feeling knowing you are literally homeless, and everything is gone – piled in a heap by the side of the street. However, due to the kindness of so many people, I am slowly healing.”

Names of those in need were gathered and vetted by Deputy District Grand Masters and submitted to a committee of brothers who reviewed requests and made gifts based on need, ranging from $500 for individuals to $3,000 for lodges. Money for the fund came from several sources, including individual donations, gifts through the Masonic Services Association (the Texas Grand Lodge contributed $100,000) and contributions of $25,000 each from the NC Grand Lodge and the North Carolina Masonic Foundation. As of presstime, total contributions to the disaster fund hit $393,000; about $328,000 had been distributed.

Members of the committee are: PGM and Grand Treasurer Lewis Ledford; 18thDistrict DDGM William McRae; 7thDistrict DDGM Bobby Meadows; 4thDistrict DDGM Rob Morrell and WMJohnny Surles, chairman of the Grand Lodge Charity Committee.

The fund is just a small part of the Craft’s work to help those who faced devastation in the wake of the storm. Brothers brought toiletry and cleaning supplies for flood victims to the Annual Communication; Brother Johnny Surles led a team who distributed the gifts to those most in need. Brothers also chipped in about $4,800 for victims when the hat was passed at Annual Communication.

The gifts mean the world to those who have lost everything.

One brother from Hampstead, NC, wrote to thank the Craft for a gift of cash – and said he had learned a loving lesson.

“Over the years, I have modestly contributed as special or routine needs have arisen, placing my few dollars in the hat as it passed around the lodge. It had never been my lot to require assistance,” he wrote. “I did not, however, until now, have much appreciation of how big a difference it makes to be able to get through something like this because of the help and generosity of others. … It has made a great difference to us.”

The money also will come in extra handy for a Wallace mom who lost her house and has been working to get life back to normal for her two kids.

“We lost our home; it was no mansion,” she wrote. “There was two and a half feet of water. I am a single mother trying hard to keep it afloat. We will use this money for Christmas.”

Brothers around the state also pitched in at individual lodges and gathered supplies and donations for their local communities.

Brother Mark White of Currituck #463 and other First District Masons pitched in after they heard calls for help. He sent a message to his contacts saying that he would be accepting donations on Sept. 22, and word spread from there. Masons from the First District donated non-perishable food, water, cleaning supplies, bug spray and clothes. The day after the collection deadline, Mark and his wife drove a16-foot trailer to Grifton, NC, loaded with donations from DMV Spartan Nash (a supplier of commissary goods to military installations), and as many other donations as they could carry.

Grifton sits between Kinston and Pitt County and has a population of 2600. Organizers specifically chose to deliver items to small, rural communities that might otherwise not see many donations.

Gifts from across the craft were overwhelming – even to those who already give of themselves.

“There are angels among us,” Brother Surles said in a recent Facebook post. “I hear every day a story of someone receiving a donation from someone they have never met. …

“I’m reminded of what Albert Pike said: ‘What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.’ Do something for someone tomorrow, if it just a hello, make someone smile, trust me, if you do, you will smile too. Imagine the whole world with a smile on everyone's face.”

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