The Annual Provincial Lodge Almoner’s Meeting took place on a sunny Saturday morning at the Tovil Masonic Centre on 12th March 2022. The meeting was hosted by the Provincial Grand Almoner (PGA) Nigel Fitz along with 90 plus brethren and companions including the Deputy Provincial Grand Master Phil South and special guests from the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
Phil South welcomed everyone to the meeting congratulating all those Almoners and others who had worked so hard to keep brethren companions connected to their Lodges during the past difficult pandemic period. He also stressed the importance of our 2025 Festival in supporting the Masonic Charitable Foundation allowing it to continue to provide the necessary financial, health and educational support to those brethren and families in our Province.
The PGA Nigel Fitz, announced that this meeting was a change from the previous format and from the healthy attendance together enjoying an excellent hearty breakfast the early morning start was well worth it. The PGA gave an update of the activities he and his team of Group Almoners have been involved with in recent months. He advised that the MCF produced the Better Lives magazine which will be sent directly to Lodge Almoners later in the Spring and mentioned that more Case Studies of those receiving MCF support would be covered together with explanations and guidance on state benefits plus more articles on health prevention, screening and health wellbeing.
The MCF is reintroducing Holiday and Short breaks for eligible beneficiaries and Province is asking for nominations for consideration. The Group Almoners will be liaising with local Lodge Almoners to identify deserving cases. Nigel also referred to the excellent attendance to the recent Members Pathway presentations and urged those present to ensure Lodges take the necessary steps to put the framework in place.
The PGA outlined a proposal to be sent to Almoners relating to the reports they give at Meetings which in the main relates to Lodge specific news. He felt that many brethren were not aware of what the MCF can do for them and announced that Lodge Almoners would be provided with guidance on the latest updates from the MCF and the Group Coordinators so they can fully update their members on the support that is available to them. It is hoped to roll this out in April. It was also pleasing to see a number of recently appointed Lodge Almoners in attendance and these were acknowledged with the PGA thanking them for taking on the Office and wishing them well supporting their members.
Mike Martin, MCF Provincial Engagement Manager explained the structure within his team which provides training, and the management and support for all the activities of Volunteer Visitors across the country who do so much valuable work for brethren and families in establishing the basic personal information, circumstances and requirements before any decisions are made. His team ensure that all VVs are fully trained and outlined their duties and responsibilities in working with the Grants team. One important aspect of his work is to ensure that the safeguarding, data protection and other policy issues are followed especially with VVs entering people’s home,
The Provincial Chapter Almoner, Paul Settle announced the introduction of Personal Information Cards which will be made available to brethren. This initiative has arisen following several incidents where the Emergency Services have been called to attend a mason who required medical attention. In many cases there is no immediate information for the ambulance crews when attending an emergency which can delay important decisions being taken. Paul has been working with hospital consultants and ambulance specialists in putting this together and hope those vulnerable brethren would carry this card which would contain basic medicine detail. Packs of these cards and pouches will be sent to all Lodge Almoners for distribution. Paul hopes that this approach will be followed by the Provinces of West Kent and Kent Mark Masons.
The meeting concluded with a short Q&A session with the panel.
Following the positive feedback from those who attended, the PGA and Group Almoners will be planning to arrange a similar event in March 2023.