And, they get personally involved in
that oldest form of Masonic philanthropy:
member relief. In efforts that are growing
increasingly structured, lodges and now
entire swaths of the state are coordinating their own outreach efforts. San Diego’s
Division IX has had a network in place
since 2011 – read more about this effort
in “A Call To Arms.” In the words of Jim
Kurupas, one of the Masons who got the
Division IX initiative started, these brothers
are “boots on the ground” for the fraternity’s formal outreach program, Masonic
Outreach Services (MOS). Lodge volunteers
attend quarterly trainings with MOS staff.
They distribute resources and teach lodges
how to recognize warning signs, and how
to approach fraternal family members who
may need help. When they get a tip about
a brother or widow in need, they are ready,
at a moment’s notice, to show up on that
person’s doorstep. And over the past four
years, they have changed lives. Older brothers who had been secretly living in their
cars now have a warm bed at night. Widows
who were no longer safe at home alone have
assistance. Families are connecting with the
social services they need.
Kurupas says that the volunteers’ lives
have been changed, too. The brothers who
comprise Division IX’s outreach initiative
feel extraordinary pride and passion in
their work. Kurupas thinks it’s evidence of
a larger trend.
“Masonry, like anything else, has evolved,”
Kurupas says. “Our idea of philanthropy is
In California, Masonic relief adopted a hands-on character very
early on. And from there, it was just a short leap to volunteerism.
“Biologically, human beings thrive the most when [they are]
embedded deeply within communities of face-to-face relationships and social interactions,” says Konrath, the psychologist.
“There is nothing that can replace eye contact and touch.”
“There’s a big difference when you give of yourself,” agrees
James Ritter, secretary of San Mateo Lodge No. 26. “When you
go to an awards ceremony for a scholarship, you get a sense of:
‘This is my lodge helping,’” he says. “But when you are doing
outreach where you’re giving of yourself, you get a real sense of,
‘This is me helping.’”
Each lodge in California sustains its own level of interest
in community service and volunteering. Lodges are organized
with a great deal of autonomy, allowing each to build activi-
ties around members’ passions. While most lodges give back to
their communities in some way, some lodges may spend more
efforts on perfecting the ritual or bolstering Masonic education
or social programming instead.
But at Ritter’s lodge, volunteering is a priority. San Mateo
Lodge has been participating for 17 years in a national program
called Rebuilding Together. Every year, an army of lodge volunteers muster at a house in the community that needs repairs
in order to keep its occupants safe, warm, and in their home.
It is a long day filled with sweat, dirt, safety glasses, and sore
muscles. But more members turn out for this event than any
other during the year.
Every day, thousands of other California Masons volunteer in a
myriad of ways. They organize blood drives and community fundraisers. They show up at public schools to read to students and
renovate playgrounds. They help put on Firefighters In Safety
Education presentations to keep kids and communities safer. Continued next page