Just short of £46,000 was donated to charity by North Fylde Group Freemasons at their biennial Charity Giving Day at Cleveleys Masonic Hall, of which the vast majority was distributed to local charities. More than 40 charity groups benefitted from varying donations and a number of their representatives were present to receive the cheques.
Principal guests in attendance on the day were the Deputy Mayor of Wyre Councillor Emma Anderton and her consort Danny Henshaw and local Member of Parliament for Blackpool North and Cleveleys Paul Maynard.
Following refreshments and biscuits courtesy of the Masonic hall, Chairman of North Fylde Group Duncan Smith welcomed the representatives of the charities who were present to express their thanks. Also attending were local Freemasons, including Assistant Provincial Grand Master Harry Cox, Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals David Randerson and vice chairman of North Fylde group Peter Greathead.
Having explained that there are 23 lodges and 7 chapters in the North Fylde Group that meet at Cleveleys and Fleetwood Masonic Halls and that Freemasonry throughout the country supports 100s of non-Masonic charities, Duncan handed over to the North Fylde Group Charity Steward Jim Gregson to provide details of the charities that would be benefitting on the day. Jim provided brief descriptions of each charity’s activities, the amount donated and the lodges and chapters that had contributed; he progressed through the list of 40 or so recipients, pausing periodically to invite a representative of a charity to discuss their work.
One such grateful recipient was Carol Willacy and her golden Labrador support dog Charlie who were representing Assistance Dogs UK. Charlie was a major attraction for all those present but seemed to take a particular shine to Harry Cox, presumably assuming that Harry needed the most support. Charlie kept everyone on their toes throughout the morning and provided humorous intermissions by yawning audibly if there was a lull in the proceedings.
Glancing down the list of charities supported by North Fylde Group, one is struck by the extent and diversity of recipients, ranging from local Scout and Girl Guide groups to cancer research and care; from NW Air Ambulance to cystic fibrosis research. All are worthy causes and each is extremely grateful for the support it receives.
That the donations are used to best effect was clearly evident from the short addresses given by various representatives on the day. Clive Shelton of the Sea Cadets and Marita Kirkham of the West Lancashire Scouts spoke of the exciting opportunities that are being developed by their respective groups. Mark Cassidy of Heartbeat and Amy Hilton of Rosemere Cancer Foundation spoke of the vital services that each of their organisations are involved in, as did John Bradford of the National Coast Watch.
Common to all the charities nevertheless was their reliance on the support of the public and organisations like Freemasonry. The message was eloquently expressed by Jane Wright, a volunteer ambassador for Trinity Hospice and its children’s wing Brian House. On receiving cheques amounting to £5,990, Jane commented: “Charities are faced with major challenges during these austere times and the generosity of the Freemasons is hugely appreciated. It is a major struggle to fund the invaluable work that the hospice provides when government grants represent less than 20% of our required budget. Freemasonry continues to support us, as it has done for many years and we are deeply appreciative of its help.”
All those who represented their charity at the event expressed a similar message and Duncan, in his closing message defined the role of Freemasonry in the local community saying: “The values of Freemasonry are based on integrity and kindness and Freemasons are taught to practise charity and to care, not only for ourselves but for the community as a whole by both charitable giving and voluntary efforts as individuals.”
One thing that clearly emerged from the day was that every penny of the £46,000 will be put to the best possible use. Freemasonry raises the money quietly. It doesn’t shout about how much good it does in our communities and, unlike many fundraising organisations, it does not seek support from the public. All the money is raised entirely from Freemasons and their families. The ethos of not approaching the public will continue but it is certainly worthy of public attention.