Over the past year you have once again demonstrated your ability to meet a key element of our mission – to increase our contribution to the community in Berkshire, especially with your fantastic response to my appeal for the Berkshire Masonic Charity which supports Berkshire good causes. It is natural for a caring organisation like ours to enhance that focus as we approach the Festive Season and I am delighted that during December, Berkshire Freemasons have done so much to improve the lives of many of the less fortunate members of our local community, especially children.
When Network Rail granted permission for the CLIC Sargent children’s cancer charity to organise bucket collections at its stations on Tuesday 1st December, we readily provided the volunteers to do this at Reading Station. Our volunteers raised £1,684 – 27% of the total collected in London and the South East – which will enable many children suffering from cancer to be helped.
Two weeks ago many lodges responded magnificently to the initiative conceived by W Bro Mark Heppelthwaite to provide Christmas presents for underprivileged and hospitalised children. Your donations have already enabled presents to the value of over £2,000 to be distributed through Reading Family Aid and next week I will be privileged to be part of a small team to take presents to the children’s wards in the Royal Berkshire Hospital. In total you donated £4,133.00 to this project.
Through your support for the Berkshire Masonic Charity we took over a matinee performance of the pantomime Cinderella at the Theatre Royal, Windsor on Tuesday 8th December. As we have done since W Bro Lew Hughes came up with this idea nine years ago, we filled the theatre with families whose children have serious special needs or life threatening illnesses. To see them transported into a world of joy and excitement for an afternoon was heart-warming, and made even better by knowing that your support has helped thousands of children in this way over the years.
Internally, our propensity to care has been augmented in our lodges by the introduction of Lodge Care Teams which are now operational in all but a few lodges. The effectiveness of the work that you are doing in your lodges in this area is reflected in the fact that membership losses for the past three months have been reduced by over 50 percent compared with the same period a year ago.
I am sure that the Festive Season will provide further opportunities to demonstrate the caring nature of Freemasonry to the community, to our widows and to our Brethren and I am deeply grateful to all of you for your efforts to ensure that our organisation continues to thrive and make a significant contribution to the community. You should all be proud of what you have achieved over the past year.
I wish you and your families a merry Christmas and good health and happiness in 2016.
Provincial Grand Master