They live to give

North Shore Sunday/September 19, 2003
By Joel Beck

Until the recent effort by Freemasons to increase public awareness about their organization, not much has been known about the Masonic lifestyle. In fact, the general perception non-Masons have about the group can be divided into two separate categories:

Most people have a passing knowledge that Masons tend to be very philanthropic. Others think they are a bizarre cult.

The latter of those two descriptions will be denied vehemently by anyone who calls himself a Mason. Their philanthropic efforts, however, they tend to take very seriously.

Here's a look at some of the larger charitable and goodwill contributions that are exclusively carried out by Masons.

The Masonic Childhood Identification Program (CHIP): The CHIP program has identified more than 150,000 children since its inception and is expected to identify tens of thousands more in 2003 alone. The program is designed to provide families with identifying records of their children in the event of a tragedy.

Through the CHIP program, Masons visit schools, community centers, town halls and other gathering places throughout the state for scheduled events. At each event, a brief videotaped interview of the child is created, which can be distributed to the media, fingerprints and tooth print bite impressions are taken and then all materials, including the video, are given directly - and only - to the family.

Blood Donations: According to the American Red Cross of Massachusetts, approximately 80 percent of all blood donated in the commonwealth each year comes from Masonic blood drives. The Masons of Massachusetts hold hundreds of blood drives each year, and, frequently, the first people to line up to give blood are the Masons themselves.

The Masonic Angel Fund: The fastest-growing Masonic charity in the world, The Masonic Angel Fund (MAF) was founded in 1998 by the members of the Orleans, Mass. lodge and has spread to lodges in six states.

A fundamental principle of the MAF program is that 100 percent of the money raised by a local lodge's MAF stays in that community and goes directly to the local kids. The fund provides modest assistance to children in need who do not fit the criteria for the usual social-service programs. Such assistance includes providing a pair of glasses, a coat, shoes, field trip fees or minor health services.

As of June of 2002, it is estimated that all Masonic Angel Funds together raised more than $100,000 for children it is anticipated that $1 million more will be distributed by the end of 2004.

The Grand Lodge Scholarship Program: Since 1995, the Grand Lodge Scholarship Program has distributed almost $1.5 million to high school students across Massachusetts. The program gives $5,000 scholarships to the children and grandchildren of Massachusetts Masons to be used at an accredited college, university or trade school for undergraduate studies.

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