Masonic Relief Meets the Snow Patrol
WHEN RESIDENTS IN THE SAN BERNARDINO MOUNTAINS WERE SNOWED IN AFTER A
ONCE-IN-A-GENERATION BLIZZARD, MASONS RALLIED TO DELIVER MUCH-NEEDED SUPPLIES.
By Antone Pierucci
As the snow began to fall on the San Bernardino Mountains the night of February 22, locals knew that a storm was coming their way. But no one could predict just how bad things would ultimately get—or how much help they’d need.
Three days later, after the ultrarare Southern California blizzard had dumped more than 110 inches of snow—more than twice the annual average for the region—the state declared a county-wide emergency. And residents were faced with a growing crisis.
The winding, narrow highways leading up the mountain were impassable; even snowplows couldn’t deal with the scale of the snowfall. Meanwhile, the tremendous weight of snow and ice had caused dozens of roofs on businesses and homes to collapse, including those of the only two grocery stores in town. Practically all of the 80,000 people who live in the resort towns around Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead found themselves snowed in, with supplies running low.
“It was an unprecedented storm, unlike anything in the recorded history of our area,” recalls Richard Pumerantz, the master of Rim of the World № 711 in the town of Twin Peaks. “It became a dire situation.”
That’s when Pumerantz turned to the fraternity to help fill in the gaps in services and supplies that were starting to grow.
The relief effort began when several locals reached out to Pumerantz over social media to ask about using the Rim of the World’s hall and parking lot as a staging area for supplies brought in by first responders and other government organizations, making it the epicenter of relief efforts in the community. For Pumerantz, that was a no-brainer—but hardly the extent of the lodge’s involvement.
Masonic Neighbors to the Rescue
Meanwhile, down off the mountain, word of the catastrophe spread among the lodges of the Inland Empire of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. “When I heard about what our brothers and their community were facing, I knew I had to do something,” says Stu Ryan, an assistant secretary with Blythe-Needles № 473 and inspector for the 834th Masonic District in eastern Riverside County. Ryan put the word out to local lodges about launching a supply drive. Because Ryan owned a cabin in Twin Peaks, he’d be able to drive the supplies up the mountain, which by then was open only to locals.
From there the supply drive grew. Carl Black, a past master of Temecula Catalina Island № 524 and an inspector for the neighboring 826th Masonic District in western Riverside County, heard about Ryan’s effort during a Masonic Outreach Services meeting. He in turn put the word out to other inspectors in his division. The response was overwhelming. Within a few days, Black had gathered more than $4,000 worth of supplies from local lodges.
Back in eastern Riverside County, Ryan had gathered an additional $5,000 worth of goods, ranging from fresh food and batteries to canned dog food and cat litter. Loading it all into a 17-foot trailer, Ryan traveled three hours to Redlands, at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains, where he met Black. “Between what I had collected and what Carl brought, that 17-foot trailer was packed to the rim,” Ryan says.
The trip up the mountain proved treacherous, but Ryan was able to deliver the supplies to Rim of the World, where he was met by Pumerantz and other lodge members. “We were overwhelmed at the generosity of the brotherhood,” Pumerantz says.
When the lodge opened the next day, there was a line of locals eager to replenish their stock of staples. Within 24 hours, the supplies had been fully distributed to more than 500 thankful residents. “I couldn’t express the joy of these people, many of whom had had little or no food for days,” Pumerantz says. Long after the snow melts, the community of Twin Peaks will remember the generosity of the Masons.
“This is what Freemasonry is all about,” Pumerantz says. “It’s helping our brothers and our community when they’re in need.”
To learn more about Masonic Outreach Services, visit masonichome.org/MOS
Photograpy courtesy of:
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