California Masons responded to the #bluelodgechallenge, highlighting acts of everyday charity that are transforming their communities.
Setting Down Roots
A SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA LODGE WATCHES A RELATIONSHIP GROW— RIGHT OUTSIDE THEIR WINDOW.
The lodge already sponsored a reading program at the local elementary school, as well as monthly volunteering sessions at a homeless shelter. But for members of North Hollywood Lodge No. 542, the latest community service project ended up being right in their front yard. Well, almost.
Alerted by a city council member that a tree-planting event was planned for the park directly across the street from their meeting hall, lodge secretary Armen Mardirousi rallied members to pitch in. So on a bright day in May, six members of the lodge and one from Raven’s Rock No. 870 picked up shovels and got to work. By day’s end, they had planted 108 trees.
The effort continues to pay off: Since the tree planting, the lodge is in close communication with the parks department, which has plugged them into other upcoming community events. “It allowed our lodge to create stronger Masonic bonds with one another and with the community,” says Master Edward Taylor.
Seeing the Invisible Ones
A SACRAMENTO LODGE STEPS UP FOR HOMELESS STUDENTS.
Back in 2016, members of General Douglas MacArthur Lodge No. 853 began collecting supplies for local schoolkids in Sacramento. Eventually, they were connected to the Parker Family Resource Center and Homeless Services Division, part of the Sacramento school district. The organization works with the city’s population of homeless high school students—a group that’s often left out of the spotlight and neglected in school-supply drives.
The issue struck a chord with the lodge.
Immediately, lodge members began collecting backpacks, school supplies, and personal hygiene products for the center, launching what’s become an annual drive. In 2019, they were able to provide some 30 backpacks filled with school supplies and toiletries in bulk—binders, notebooks, shampoo, deodorant, feminine products, and others. In all, the lodge donated more than 1,000 items to the center. “This is our passion project,” says charity drive cochair Alannbert Millendez.
A CONNECTION THAT’S THICKER THAN WATER.
For Ron Morrison, it started with a wreck, as, unfortunately, these things often do.
It was 2012, and Morrison—who operates mechanical walnut tree shakers in Visalia—learned that a close friend, Fernando Quintanar, had been in a serious motorcycle accident. Quintanar had lost a significant amount of blood and needed a transfusion, so Morrison agreed to donate at a local blood bank. Afterward, he was so moved by the gesture that he has continued making regular blood and platelet donations ever since.
Today, both Morrison and Quintanar are members of Visalia-Mineral King Lodge No. 128, where they’ve run blood drives through the Central California Blood Center. To date, the lodge has held 13 events, bringing in more than 350 pints of blood that can be used in county hospitals, including Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera. Each drive brings between 10 and 15 members out, including Masons from nearby lodges who learn of the drives through Facebook. “I’ll share it online until people are sick of it,” Morrison jokes.
During the events, Morrison and his wife, whom he met at the blood bank, hand out water bottles and introduce other volunteers to Freemasonry. “Most people start donating because of an accident, and then they start coming back,” Morrison says. “We’re trying to get people to make that connection.”
—Ian A. Stewart
Planting the Seed
IN SAN BERNARDINO, A LODGE HELPS BUILD CONNECTIONS.
“When we talk about being Masons, we say we should make our community better,” begins Ronald Drake, master of Phoenix Rising No. 178. “It means we should seek out opportunities to serve.”
True, but this time, that opportunity came to him. Last summer, Drake was approached by representatives of the AHEPA National Housing complex, a nearby low-income senior citizen residential facility, which was looking for community groups to help them rebuild a series of dilapidated planter beds in their garden. “Right away I said, ‘We’ll be there,’” Drake recalls.
Drake brought up the opportunity at his next lodge meeting and rallied members to supply materials and volunteer time to rebuild the six raised planter beds. In September, some 20 lodge members showed up for the project, along with four members of Job’s Daughters and others Drake had enlisted. Drake’s young grandson was there, too—and learned the finer points of several power tools, thanks to lodge members. “Seeing an eight-year-old boy learning to use a screw gun, it’s like a wonderful allegory of Masonry,” Drake says.
—Ian A. Stewart