with the help of masonic
outreach services, a younG
woman leads her family out
of trouBled times
by Laura Normand
On a routine morning last winter, Marylin
Wakefield picked up a ringing phone in the offices of Masonic Outreach Services. The young
woman on the other end said she had nowhere
else to turn.
“She contacted us out of a sense of desperation. She didn’t know where to go
or what to do,” says Wakefield, interim associate director.
The caller, Amy*, was the wife of a California
Mason. In the months preceding her call to
Masonic Family Outreach, she had watched
her world fall apart. Her husband was fired
from his job because of uncharacteristic mistakes at work. Shortly after, he was diagnosed
with early-onset Alzheimer’s. The disease was
progressing quickly: he could no longer help
with family decisions, could no longer even
drive their teenage daughter to her after-school
choir. He was beginning to wander.
Years earlier, Amy had been in a severe
accident, and could no longer work or drive.
Until he lost his job, her husband had been the
family’s sole provider.
With no source of income, mother, father,
and daughter were struggling to pay for even
basic needs. Their heat and water had been cut
off. The trash was no longer being picked up.
Their roof badly needed repair from snow and
water damage. Alone in a rural part of the state, cut off from many
public services, the Masonic lodge, and even neighbors, all they
could do was apply for federal disability benefits and wait for the
money to come in.
But after a few months, they couldn’t wait any longer.
“She knew her husband was a Master Mason in good standing
because of dues payments over the years,” Wakefield says. “When
she contacted us she said, ‘I don’t know where to go. I don’t know
what else we can do.’ I walked her through how to apply for
No longer alone
The program, Masonic Family Outreach (MFO), was launched in
2009 through the Masonic Homes of California to help Masonic
families address unexpected challenges. It provides short-term case
management and financial assistance to families of Masons younger
Wakefield, who has been a social worker for more than 25 years,
has helped many families like Amy’s in their toughest hour.
“It’s not an easy thing to talk about financial issues, especially
when you’re not doing well,” Wakefield says. “I feel honored when
families allow me to ask the questions and give me the info we need
to make the decisions. I feel very honored to be trusted with that
kind of info.”
Like most families who contact MFO, Amy didn’t know what
public services might be available, or how to access them. She
didn’t realize how many months it would take for their application
for federal benefits to even be processed – and when it was denied,
she didn’t know how to navigate the appeals process.
Most of all, she never thought she would have to find out alone.
“It’s been a very painful experience for her,” says Wakefield.
“She is a young woman; She didn’t expect her spouse, in his mid-
50s, to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He isn’t able to function as
a partner anymore. He is no longer capable of helping her make
In his stead, MFO has stepped in. Wakefield and others have
helped Amy find the courage to face the obstacles ahead, and make