performed their first charitable act in the name of brotherly love
and relief – even before joining Freemasonry.
This contribution was $25 in 1927 – equivalent to $694 today.
It was a hefty sum; yet applicants were eager to demonstrate
their commitment to the fraternity, some even assuming personal loans as a result. Today’s applicants continue to make a
$25 contribution. Compared to the sacrifice of our early brethren, this donation may seem symbolic, yet it is an important
initiation into our fraternal culture of charity.
Beginning in 1915, after federal income tax was established,
charitable gifts and bequests became a growing revenue source
for the Masonic Homes. The Masonic Homes Endowment Board
was formally created in 1932. In 1970, Chairman Morris Guss
reported that members and lodges had contributed $919,392
to the Annual Fund – the largest amount since the fund was
established. In praising members’ generosity, Guss wrote,
“The fraternal philosophy of our Masonic Homes exemplifies
Masonry’s greatest tenet – Charity. This belief gives to every
Mason the honor and opportunity to be his brother’s keeper.”
In early lodges, relief was more than a moral
ideal; it was a need. On massive cathedral
and castle construction sites, operative
stonemasons risked serious injury or death
each day. If the worst should happen, they
trusted the fraternity to shelter their families.
Relief was an “insurance plan,” ensuring
loved ones would always be protected.
Modern Masons’ jobs are often devoid of
physical dangers. Our lives are padded with
more comforts than our early brothers could
have imagined; many of us have health
insurance and life insurance. But relief is
still more than a symbolic concept. When
misfortune strikes, Freemasonry remains
a lifeline. And in California, our lifeline is
attached to the charitable programs of the
Annual Fund, which are in turn linked to a
legacy of giving that spans generations.
Our brothers’ keepers
The building of the Masonic Widows’ and
Orphans’ Home in Union City in 1898 institutionalized relief, spreading the cement of
brotherly love to those in distress. To help
care for residents and maintain the facility,
all applicants were asked to contribute to the
Masonic Homes. With this gift, applicants
MEASURING THE PROFOUND
IMPACT OF OUR STATEWIDE
by Candler Gibson