On Saturday 30th November 2013 the Freemasons’ Grand Charity held their AGM at the headquarters of Berkshire Freemasonry in Sindlesham.
Martin Peters, the head of the Freemasons in Berkshire, addressed the large number of the general public and members who were present:
“Vice Grand President, President, Honoured Guests, Ladies, Gentlemen and Members.
The first thing I must do is welcome you all to Berkshire today and thank you for attending this very important General Meeting of the Freemasons’ Grand Charity in such large numbers. We feel honoured that Berkshire was asked by the Grand Charity to host this meeting today. Laura Chapman, Chief Executive of the Freemasons’ Grand Charity, came to Sindlesham in April last year to launch the new Freemasonry Cares initiative. She was very impressed by our facilities and I am pleased that she readily agreed to the suggestion that this General Meeting should be held at the Centre for Berkshire Freemasonry here at Sindlesham – a centre of which we are rightly proud and which I am sure will serve us well for today’s proceedings and on behalf of all the Freemasons of Berkshire I extend a very warm welcome to you all.
Charity has always been at the heart of our activities in Berkshire and we have been enthusiastic supporters of the four central Masonic Charities as well as our own Berkshire Masonic Charity and of the individual lodge benevolent funds. All these charities give highly valued support to a wide range of Masonic and Non-Masonic causes.
As you have heard, the Freemasons’ Grand Charity is one of our four central grant-making charities and I will say a little more about it in a moment. Another is the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution which looks after elderly Freemasons, their Dependents and non-Masons in 17 Care Homes across the country, one of which is here in Sindlesham; built on land we gave them adjacent to the main car park. The Festival System is the method by which the Provinces raise funds for our central charities. In 2011 we completed a Festive for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution which raised over two and a quarter million pounds. This is the highest per capita total which has ever been raised by any Province for a Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution Festival and I would like to reiterate my thanks to the Berkshire Freemasons in the audience today for that wonderful achievement.
I should also like to take the opportunity today to say a few words about the Berkshire Masonic Charity. This is our own charity established to specifically to support the Berkshire community. The income from the funds under management – which were entirely raised by Berkshire Freemasons – enables us to make grants to the Berkshire community of around seventy to eighty thousand pounds a year. Many Berkshire charities, hospitals, schools, churches, hospices, support groups and individuals have benefited since the charity was launched twenty six years ago. When I became Provincial Grand Master in 2011 I launched a new five year appeal to raise half a million pounds over five years, the proceeds of which will enable us to make an even greater contribution to charitable causes in Berkshire. After just two years we have already exceeded the two hundred and twenty thousand pound mark, so I am sure we will make the half million pound target.
But today is all about the Freemasons’ Grand Charity, a charity towards which every Freemason in the country makes a contribution. There is no external fundraising. All money donated comes from our own efforts. After the National Lottery it is the biggest grant-making charity in England and has donated over one hundred million pounds since 1980. Each year, the Freemasons’ Grand Charity provides relief grants for hundreds of individuals who are experiencing financial difficulty, as well as donating millions of pounds to nationwide charitable projects and services in the areas of medical research, vulnerable people, youth opportunities, hospices, air ambulances, Masonic charities and disaster relief. Many of us may at some stage benefit from the money donated for medical research, and the disaster relief grants have brought comfort and hope to millions around the world.
You have already heard from Laura Chapman about some of the grants received by Berkshire organisations. I was particularly pleased recently to be able to present a cheque for £100,000 on behalf of the Freemasons’ Grand Charity to the Priors Court Foundation just outside Newbury. This is a wonderful charity which builds a future for those suffering from very severe autism. The grant has enabled them to provide special self-contained accommodation to enable young adults to live independently.
The purpose of today’s meeting was to approve further grants which will extend Freemasonry’s support for those in need into 2014 and from what has been approved I think it is clear that Freemasons make a huge contribution to society, having just approved £830,000 under item 5 on the agenda and £942,000 under item 6 on the agenda – an impressive total of over one and three quarter million pounds. I think the Freemasons of the United Grand Lodge of England can be very proud of that contribution, but let us not forget that in addition to financial support, Freemasons also devote considerable time to supporting a wide spectrum of charitable causes, such as providing marshals at the Reading Half Marathon for CLIC Sargent, as we heard today.
I cannot end my comments on the Freemasons’ Grand Charity without mentioning our own Ian Johnson, Deputy President of the Freemasons’ Grand Charity and a Berkshire Freemason, who rarely says so little as “I Second” and who has made a massive contribution to the work of the charity over many years and I would like to thank him for that.
As I said at the beginning, I am delighted this meeting is being held at our Masonic centre here at Sindlesham and I must close by thanking the Centre Staff for accommodating us today and also thanking the small team from Berkshire and the Freemasons’ Grand Charity who have put so much effort into the planning and execution of the meeting. Lastly I thank you all for your attendance today and hope that those of you who have tickets will now enjoy a fine buffet lunch and then have a safe journey home.