Diveristy in Friendship
by Antone R.E. Pierucci
In March, when Todd Tei found himself on the verge of homelessness, he didn’t worry about himself. He worried about his 6-year-old daughter, Anna. Anna lives with her mother but spends weekends with Tei. Anna needed a safe, consistent home.
Like millions, Tei’s life was turned upside down by COVID-19. Previously, Tei, a member of Burbank Lodge No. 406, ran an event business that brought celebrity chefs to venues like the L.A. Convention Center. But as the pandemic grew, his events were canceled one after another. Desperate, he applied for an office job, but it fell through. He hadn’t heard back about receiving unemployment benefits or a small-business loan. His landlord threatened to evict him. He suffered a panic attack so severe it landed him in the hospital. That’s when he got an email announcing the Distressed Worthy Brother Relief Fund. “I thought, Well, I’m pretty distressed,” Tei says. He hit reply.
With that, Tei was among the first wave of California Masons to tap into the newly launched program. Funded through Masonic Outreach Services, the fund connects unemployed Masons with companies that are hiring and helps families access state and federal aid. For many, it also provides emergency funds.
The same day Tei reached out, a care manager called back, reviewed his situation, and offered advice on rent protection. She helped him apply for financial relief. And a week later, the funds were in his account— giving him a critical foothold to start rebuidling his life. “It’s shown me that these brothers are truly like the family I never had,” Tei says of the experience. “When we say we’re going to take care of each other, we do.”
“My daughter is the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” he says. “Masonry is the second-best thing.”
Relief For All
To access relief services and funds, or to donate, please visit californiafreemason.org/dwbrelief. Masonic Outreach Services is now able to offer expanded relief, including to:
- All California Masons and their spouse or widow, regardless of degree level or years of membership.
- Masons who are not in good standing with their lodge. (In order to qualify for relief, they must first be restored to good standing with the help of Grand Lodge.)
- Masons associated with other jurisdictions living in California.