Diveristy in Friendship
by Antone R.E. Pierucci
Paul Karch, a past master of Beach Cities Lodge No. 753 in Manhattan Beach, was just picking up the phone to put in another phone-banking shift when an email popped into his inbox. It was from the daughter of a longtime lodge member, thanking Karch for reaching out. Her dad, she said, was dealing with Alzheimer’s and now living with her family in Nevada. They were doing their best to take care of him, she said, but admitted that full-time caregiving was exhausting.
As he’s done dozens of times over the past year, Karch sprung into action. He contacted his fellow lodge member, Levi Quintana, who serves as Beach Cities’ point man for Masonic Outreach Services. After a flurry of behind-the-scenes spadework, MOS arranged to have a home health aide visit the family each week. Quintana and Karch celebrated: One more family helped. Just a couple hundred more to go.
That never-ending effort to check in on fraternal family members has become a calling card for Beach Cities No. 753. This fall, the lodge was recognized for its work with the Joe Jackson Award, the Masonic Homes’ annual prize for outstanding lodge outreach. With Quintana, Karch, and a dozen others leading the charge, and the support of lodge and outreach educator Camille Salinas at MOS, Beach Cities has helped connect dozens of lodge members and families in need to services offered through the Masonic Homes of California.
That help has taken many forms, from conveniences like rides to the doctor and help with job leads to larger instances of financial relief. One weekend, a group from the lodge renovated a widow’s garage so she could put her house on the market. The next week, Quintana arranged for the grand master to visit a member’s assisted-living home to present him with his 50-year pin.
“Over the years, Beach Cities has consistently gone above and beyond,” says Sabrina Montes, executive director of Masonic Outreach Services. “I am so proud of this lodge and the incredible example they set for lodges everywhere.”
Even in times of social distancing, the lodge has shown a knack for networking. In December, members organized a contactless clothing drive and managed to fill their lodge room to capacity with donations for the Midnight Mission homeless services organization. When Quintana realized that a local film-production company was tossing out uneaten catering at the end of each day, he introduced them to the nonprofit to donate the food. The lodge has also partnered with the Rotary Club, Salvation Army, and the Manhattan Beach Safe Alternatives for Everyone homeless nonprofit. ”They’re an amazing partner to MOS, as well as to their members and their community,“ Salinas says of the lodge.
Despite their many charitable programs, Beach Cities remains best known for a kind of outreach that’s proved effective through the ages: one-on-one conversation. In 2021, worried about how the pandemic was affecting members and their families, Beach Cities’ outreach team vowed to speak to every single member and widow of the lodge. That meant staring down a list of about 800 names. So, starting in February, the lodge began a campaign of phone calls, emails, postcards, and socially distanced visits. “The purpose was to let our fraternal family know that we’re here for them, that they’re important, and that we want to make sure they’re OK,” Karch says.
Quintana led a group of seven members in reaching out to lodge widows: dropping off flowers and gift cards, following up with regular phone calls, and then, as COVID-19 precautions allowed, making in-person visits. Karch took on the list of active members. At first he devoted about four hours per week to email and phone duty, recording each member’s status, updating their contact information, and determining whether they needed or might qualify for Masonic relief.
After a few months, the team had momentum, a fast-growing Excel spreadsheet, and daily moments of connection with long-lost members and widows. At Salinas’s request, Quintana and Karch presented their work at each of the nine “train the trainer” district-level programs run by Masonic Outreach Services. Seven months later, Beach Cities achieved its goal: The roster was current. (Of the original 800, the list was whittled to a far more manageable 200-plus members and about 30 widows.)
The lodge’s reward? To repeat the entire process for 2022. “In a lot of ways, it’s like painting the Golden Gate Bridge,” Karch says. “You start at one end. By the time you get to the other end, it’s time to do it again.”
Time-consuming? Yes, but also simple: Make the phone call. Ask the question. Follow up. Repeat. Says Quintana, outreach is at its best when it’s ongoing. So it’s no surprise that Quintana recently reached out again to the family Karsh originally spoke to in Nevada. He asked how her father’s battle with Alzheimer’s was going and how the home health aide was working out. “Is there anything else you need?” he asked.
There was one thing, the daughter said. Years ago, her father lost his Masonic ring. Now he sometimes spent hours staring at his bare hand. Could the lodge help her find a replacement?
Of course, Quintana said. Using a photo for comparison, he went in search of the closest match and mailed it off to Nevada, courtesy of Beach Cities Lodge. He heard back immediately. “He recognized it,” the daughter said. “He doesn’t recognize anything anymore, but he recognizes that symbol.” When she put the ring on her dad’s finger, he looked at it for a minute. Slowly, he smiled. Then he began to cry.
Hearing this, Quintana welled up, too—a reminder that those hundreds of phone calls, emails, and training sessions are in service of moments like this. “It’s worth it,” he says.
We’re Here to Help
RELIEF FOR CALIFORNIA MASONS AND THEIR FAMILIES
- Information and referrals
- Senior communities in Covina and Union City
- Statewide Masonic Outreach Services for members of all ages and their families
- Transitions short-term care for neurological and post-surgical rehabilitation (Union City)
- The Masonic Center for Youth and Families in San Francisco and Covina – with telehealth services now available everywhere
- NEW! Shared housing for seniors in Covina
Contact us today to access your member benefits and services:
(877) 488-6293 (San Francisco)
(626) 251-2300 (Covina)
More from this issue:
This fall, in ‘Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol’ on Peacock, a new Masonic mystery thriller hits the streaming airwaves.
A concert promoter, musical impressario, and California Freemason reflects on a very full life in concerts and shows.