The Buckinghamshire Masonic Benevolent Fund (BMBF)

The Buckinghamshire Masonic Benevolent and Education Fund, as it was initially known, had its inception at the Provincial Grand Meeting held in October 1902 under the direction of Lord Addington, the then Provincial Grand Master. It was perhaps the greatest and most unique Provincial Masonic innovation of its time.

Indeed it is still the envy of many Provinces in its ability to assist quickly those Brethren and their dependants who are in desperate need. We have many cases where action to relieve distress is taken within twenty four hours thus allowing time for the Grand Charity to assess the long term needs of each case before offering its support. Below we list just a few facts regarding our history:

The Provincial Grand Lodge made the first contribution, some 50 guineas.

In 1903 the fund had its initial support from The Scientific Lodge, 10 guineas, Herschel Lodge, 10 guineas, Marlow Lodge, 5      guineas and what appears to be an amazing donation from the Herschel Instruction Lodge of 10 guineas.

During 1904 donations were received from St. Barnabas, St. Peter and Pauls, Wycombe, Watling Street and St. Martins
Lodges. Clearly the fund was now capturing the imagination of many Masons and its long tradition of success was well
founded.

The first grant was made to a member of the Wycombe Lodge No 1501 in 1905. The sum of 10 guineas was granted.

Besides assisting thousands of petitioners since its inception it also provided the seed funding for Prebendal Close under
Sir Ralph Verney, and £75,000 to the Abbeyfield Society at Wendover.

BROTHERLY LOVE

Not until the need arises do Lodges or their members really appreciate the work done by the BMBF and even then they have little knowledge of the extensive work conducted by their Lodge Almoner. So here I give a brief list of the last twelve months activities.

We have supported some seventy five petitioners during the past twelve months. Of these, approximately 40% were first
time applicants.

The Provincial Almoner and his Assistants answered hundreds of telephone calls, wrote umpteen letters and raised nearly
200 cheques for Buckinghamshire Masons and their dependants. In addition the support of Lodge Almoners in this
process was immense, they either initiate, respond to, or action, every phone call, letter or cheque.

Over £60,000 has been distributed in the past year from the BMBF to Buckinghamshire Freemasons and their dependants.

Buckinghamshire Freemasons have been granted over £308,000 from the Central Masonic Charities over the past twelve
months.

RELIEF

It is truly amazing how each and every case varies from the last; indeed one often wonders ‘what next’. Let us therefore stop to consider just a few of those that have benefited from assistance by the BMBF.

A keen and very supportive Brother unexpectedly resigned. The Almoner visited the family home and identified a financial crisis beyond the control of the Brother. BMBF assisted with a one off payment, the Lodge Almoner made an application to the Grand Charity and now the Brother has his finances on an even keel. Do we accept resignations too easily and without questions?

An elderly Brother began to bring what were obviously objects of both sentimental and financial value to his Lodge meetings and requested that they be included in the raffle prizes. When asked the reason, it was discovered that he was planning to close down some of the rooms in is house as he was struggling to keep them clean and heated during the winter months. Swift action was taken by the BMBF and in a few weeks he was accommodated into a local sheltered housing scheme. Arrangements were made by the BMBF and Lodge members to furnish his new home with new carpeting, fridge, cooker, bedding and other basic requirements. A lesson to us all to look out for and be aware of any indication that a Brother may be in need.

A Brother suddenly passed away leaving his widow with three young children. Applications were made to the RMTGB which were successful but took some time to come to fruition. The BMBF ensured the widow did not fall behind with utility bills and other household expenses therefore relieving any extra distress caused by the bereavement.

We have a stock of electric scooters and other mobility aids which can be loaned to Brethren with mobility problems. Similarly, we arrange for the installation of stair lifts for those who have problems climbing the stairs. I have seen cases where Brethren have confined themselves to living up stairs as they do not have a downstairs toilet facility and cannot face climbing the stairs more than once or twice a day. Not a very pleasant way to live.

The BMBF assists Brethren who are on Income Support. This applies to members who suddenly find themselves unemployed and struggling to support their families due to government cut-backs and other austerity measures. Typically, they have little money in savings and have to survive on a small amount from the DWP; the basic grant for a married couple over eighteen is £112.55 per week.  Could you live on so little?

TRUTH

It is abundantly clear that as a direct result of Almoner training, the Almoners Handbook, Seminars & Lectures by representatives of the four Masonic Charities, the BMBF has become more and more pro-active thanks to the efforts of our Lodge Almoners and the Provincial Almoner’s six Assistants.

It is therefore expected that we shall find even more needy Buckinghamshire Masons and their dependants in the ensuing years. This, coupled with longer life expectancy, leads us to believe that the call on the capital of the BMBF investment portfolio will continue increase and this coupled with a lower return on investments as a direct result of the economy identifies the stark reality of our situation. I sincerely hope that we, as Freemasons, have the welfare or our Brethren and their families at heart and will continue to exercise our duty to look out for their welfare with a view to maintain an acceptable standard of living and the relief of poverty and distress.

Brethren, please remember that:

Every Member of the Province of Buckinghamshire is urged to be ‘the eyes and ears’ of our Almoners to help secure a better future for our Brethren and their dependants during times of distress. There is no better definition of a good Lodge than one where every member is an unofficial Almoner.

Phil Blacklaw

Provincial Grand Almoner

March 2015

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