West Midlands’ freemasons have made an incredible £10,000 donation to round off our amazing #BrumWish Christmas appeal in style.
The Warwickshire Provincial Grand Lodge stepped up after learning about our campaign to buy gifts for more than 1,000 children who will be homeless on Christmas Day.
BirminghamLive launched the #BrumWish campaign more in hope than expectation after learning more than 1,000 kids would wake on Christmas Day in a B&B or hotel room, or Women’s Aid refuge, with nowhere else to call home.
We set the ambitious target of getting gifts to every one of them – and with your help we smashed it.
The wonderful donation from the Freemasons was the icing on the cake and meant we could additionally ensure every school age pupil received their own tablet to play games, catch up with friends and do homework.
Philip Hall, Provincial Grand Master of Warwickshire, said the campaign resonated with members after being highlighted by city MP and freemason Gary Sambrook, who represents Northfield.
“Supporting people experiencing homelessness is one of the themes for Warwickshire’s charitable giving in 2020,” he said.
“Charity is at the heart of the freemasons’ movement – we look out for ways we can best support the community, and through Covid particularly we have been very mindful of the awful impact on some parts of the community, including our youngest children.”
It is giving and kindness, not secrecy and intrigue, that is at the heart of freemasonry, he said.
The Warwickshire province’s members have given more than £150,000 to local causes this year, and is on course to give out even more in 2021.
Recipients have ranged from large charities like Warwickshire Air Ambulance to local initiatives like youth charity Free At Last and the Buddy Bag Foundation, which provides emergency bags of vital items and reassuring goodies for children fleeing domestic violence or who are moved rapidly into care.
He said: “BrumWish dovetailed with all we stand for.
“With our counterparts in Worcestershire we were very keen to donate some of our TLC (Teddies for Loving Care) bears, normally sent to children experiencing a stay in hospital.
“In Warwickshire we were also in the position of being able to offer financial support, and we were delighted to do so.
“Our members are incredibly generous.”
BirminghamLive editor Graeme Brown said the impact of the BrumWish campaign and the incredible support of organisations like the Freemasons had been spectacularly heart warming.
“We started off a few weeks ago with a hope we could make Christmas special for 1,000 children, ” he said.
“Thanks to the generosity of Brummies, we’ve already bought Christmas presents for far more than that.
“Sadly, there’s no shortage of poor kids in our city, but thanks to you, 1,800 or so of them wake up on Christmas Day to a present.”
About the Freemasons in Warwickshire
The provinces are organised on old county boundaries, so Birmingham is covered by both Warwickshire and Worcestershire.
Within Warwickshire around 3,500 members are split into 160 lodges, or clubs.
Members come from all walks of life – “the youngest are 18, while last week I was on a zoom call with a member who is 98,” said Philip.
“We draw our membership from a broad spectrum and all walks of life. Our membership genuinely reflects the diverse communities in which we are based.
“We are looking for good men who want to make themselves better. It is a way to encourage people to be kind and to be nice.”
Warwickshire Masonic Charitable Association draws from a large pot of well invested historic bequests and legacies, topped up by individual masons and lodges who are encouraged to give into a charity appeal at every meeting.
“I am so proud of our members for what they do,” he said.
Secrecy and intrigue?
We took the opportunity to ask about the secrecy and intrigue that still swirls around freemasonry, bolstered by TV dramas and novels.
Philip, an estate agent, has been provincial grand master for just two months, taking over from David Macey, who served for ten years.
“We hear all the rumours but freemasonry is built on the premise of encouraging men to be better versions of themselves,” said Philip.
“During the Second World War the movement did go underground and quiet because there was a suggestion of persecution – but certainly since I joined in 1992 it has been open and transparent.
“I have never hidden being a freemason and am very proud of what we do.
“Journalists and broadcasters have been given free access without uncovering any secret plots or wrong doing, but though we try really, really hard that narrative of secrecy is very hard to break.”
The ‘special handshake’ that has attracted lots of interest is used in joining ceremonies, he said. “These are like three little plays, or stories, you go through on joining that try to make you think about yourself and how you can be a better person, and within that ceremony the handshake is used. It’s purely in that context.
“It goes back to the medieval stonemasons, who travelled around the country building cathedrals and castles, and the handshake was apparently the way to differentiate between skill levels.”
“The reality is there have been accusations and investigations over the years but there is nothing to find.
“Within any organisations like Rotary, or Round Table, or the golf club or Scouts then you make friends, and freemasonry is no different.”