Tonight the Masons mark the fifteenth anniversary of the Masonic Angel Fund (MAF) which was established at Universal Lodge in Orleans in 1998. From that seed has grown a national foundation with 156 chapters in 13 states.
MAF was born over a Hearth ‘n Kettle dinner shared by Universal Lodge members John Alden Sherman and Robert Fellows. They were reviewing the week’s activities with the Masonic Child Identification Program and Mr. Sherman mentioned his observations about the kids he met in the course of that school-based program.
Sherman spoke with principals about some of the kids he saw with ill-fitting clothes, damaged eyeglasses and other noticeable needs. He learned that many of these children fell through the cracks in the social service system, as their parents earned too much money to qualify for traditional social service programs but not enough to provide everything their children need.
The founders did their research and proposed the creation of a “Masonic Angel Fund” by Universal Lodge in Orleans. The program launched with a charity auction and banquet that accompanied the annual Christmas observance of Cape Cod Commandery #54, Knights Templar, raising $3,700. They immediately contacted school principals in the Nauset region to let them know assistance was available for children who might be falling through the cracks.
Two weeks later John Sherman received a call from Stony Brook Elementary School principal Dr. Muriel Lundy. She needed help with two children who had been burnt out of their home the night before, saving only the clothes they were wearing. Within an hour, the Masons had provided Dr. Lundy with funds needed to take the kids shopping. The rest, as they say, is history.
In 2000 the Masonic Angel Foundation, Inc. was formed to serve as parent organization for chapters to be sponsored by individual Masonic Lodges. All Masonic Angel Fund chapters operate under a set of standards that include:
The sponsoring Masonic Lodge pays all operational expenses for its chapter. The Foundation receives a modest annual dues from each chapter and has donors that underwrite its own operating expenses. For fifteen years the MAF has functioned as a 100% volunteer-operated organization.
Over the next 15 years, 156 chapters opened in 13 states.
$300,000 on Cape Cod
The Masonic Angel Funds on Cape Cod have distributed about $300,000 of charitable assistance in the past decade.
Every town from Bourne to Wellfleet is covered by a Masonic Angel Fund, each sponsored by the local Masonic Lodge.
740 Laptops for KidZ and 1,400 Beehive Food packages
In March 2010 the MAF established the Laptops for KidZ project to provide refurbished computers for schools to send home with students who need access to a laptop outside school hours. A team of volunteers makes necessary repairs to donated computers and configures them with a fresh Windows license the Foundation obtains as a non-profit member of the Microsoft Registered Refurbisher Program. Laptops for KidZ has delivered over 740 laptops to schools across the Cape and Southeastern Massachusetts – all absolutely free of charge. These refurbished computers represent a fair market value of approximately $225,000.
In the spring of 2012 the Beehive Food Program was established as yet another Foundation project. Beehive provides a monthly supplemental food package to families identified by school staff. Beehive recently delivered its 1,400th food package.
What the Schools Say
We contacted a few schools that we know work with the Masonic Angel Fund to ask about MAF’s impact on their students. Some of the responses include:
“Saying ‘thank you’ does not seem to be enough for what the MAF has done for our Wellfleet community. Time and again the MAF has supported children and families with a rapid response of food, funds and educational opportunities.” - Dr. Maggie Mack, Wellfleet Elementary School Counselor.
“My congrats to the Masonic Angel Fund on their 15th Anniversary. The Mount Horeb in Dennis and Howard Lodge in Yarmouth have served DY since 2000. We appreciate all the wonderful things they do for our students. From the Laptops for Kids program to school supplies, to clothing and food, this is a group that does it all. As one of our principals said about the recent coat donation, "They are flying out of here and you should see the smiling faces." I have said it before, but it bears repeating, this group really lives up to their name "angels". You never see them, but you know they are there doing all they can to help others when needed. It is great to have these angels to help us help our families. Congrats on this important anniversary!” - Carol A. Woodbury, Superintendent of Schools, Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District
“These guys really are angels. When we have a family in real need, the Masonic Angel Fund is always there for them. The computers have helped to level the playing field for many, many students over the years, and it's hard to quantify just how important that is in a kid's education.
And what's more immediately important than providing food for the bellies of a hungry family? The look of relief in a mother's eyes as she walks out with a food basket is a priceless gift that the MAF gives time and time again.
I can't say enough how fortunate we are to have forged this partnership with the Masons. We live on the front lines here in education, and the needs that the Masonic Angel Fund routinely plug fill gaping holes in the lives of our families, making it so much easier to allow them to focus on their education.” - Paul Niles, Executive Director, Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School
“The MAF has provided essential supplies to Hyannis West making a tremendous impact on the community at large. We feel so fortunate to be the beneficiaries of such a fabulous organization. [The Masons’] tireless efforts to assist Hyannis West students and their families are an example for all to strive towards. The work that their volunteers do on behalf of the neediest families in the community has allowed the staff at Hyannis West to deliver monthly food packages to families that may otherwise go without and provide laptops to students to whom such a novelty may have been only a dream. To summarize how beneficial collaborating with the Masonic
Angel Foundation has been for Hyannis West, I would go as far to say that it has helped alleviate some financial stressors and made some dreams a reality.” - Jennifer Malone, School Social Worker, Hyannis West Elementary School.
“The Masons have been a fantastic partner to us. Because of them, every student at the Middle School who needed a computer has received one. Families who are in need of food have also been helped. The Masons have certainly helped us be more responsive to the needs of our students and their families.” - Dr. Maxine Minkoff, Nauset Regional Middle School Principal
Grass Roots is Better
Cape Cod Today has chronicled the work of the Masonic Angel Fund for its entire existence. Time and again, we come back to MAF’s rule that “all the money raised goes to the kids” and remark how refreshing it is to see a grass-roots program, entirely operated by volunteers, that time and again steps up to help the children in their community.
The Masonic Angel Fund is as traditional a community charity as one can find. As MAF’s own literature says, “Since 1733 American Freemasons have provided benevolent assistance to their neighbors. The Masonic Angel Fund is a natural evolution of that centuries-old commitment to Masons serving their fellow man.”