for more than 85 years, the
masonic service association
has channeled relief to
areas in crisis
by Cason Lane
In 1919, at the end of World War I, grand lodges
throughout the U.S. wanted to organize a relief
effort to support the troops. The federal government thought that was a good idea, but it didn’t
want to work with 49 separate organizations.
With that, a new Masonic organization was
born. Representatives of grand lodges across
the country came together to form the Masonic
Service Association, which would coordinate
national Masonic efforts such as military programs, publications about Freemasonry, and
Through the disaster relief program,
Masonic grand jurisdictions around the world
can ask the association to appeal for assistance
from U.S. and Canadian grand lodges. The
association, in turn, collects the funds and forwards them directly to the requestor. The first
such appeal was to help victims of the Tokyo
earthquake in 1923, and the association since
has distributed more than $8 million in relief
for some 85 disasters.
A direct pipeline for support
The organization, today known as the Masonic
Service Association of North America (MSANA),
is successful because of its track record and
reputation in the Masonic community.
At a time when many disaster relief pledges never reach their
destination due to bureaucracy and fraud in various organizations, MSANA helps Masons make a difference through a simple
interchange of money – with no overhead costs and no political
“We put the appeal out, the money comes in, and we send it to
the grand lodge involved,” says Richard Fletcher, executive secretary of MSANA, based in Silver Spring, Md.
Through this simple system, Masons continue to make an important difference in disaster relief. Fletcher offers some success
stories from recent years.
In Haiti, it’s been more than six months since the devastating 2010
earthquake, but, according to news reports, the country is yet to
receive millions of dollars in aid pledged from around the world.
MSANA, however, issued a Masonic appeal on behalf of the Grand
Orient d’Haiti and has already sent about $200,000 to the jurisdiction, which used the money to buy medical supplies, blankets, and
other much-needed resources.
Fletcher says that routing the relief to Haiti was more challenging than usual because, after the earthquake, the grand lodge had
relocated from the demolished Port au Prince to Santo Domingo in
the Dominican Republic. MSANA worked with a New York bank to
wire the money to a reliable contact.
“We try to be very careful and establish a Masonic connection we
can rely on,” Fletcher says.
In 1992, after Hurricane Andrew ripped through southern Florida,
MSANA sent almost $300,000 in relief that helped the Grand Lodge
of Florida address the needs of its Masonic families as well as the
local public. The day after the storm, for example, a small lodge
in Homestead, Fla., served 2,000 hot meals to local residents and
National Guard, and seven families even lived inside the lodge
room for weeks until they found a safe haven. The relief also funded