I had the honor of attending the World Conference of Regular Grand Lodges in San Francisco in November. This was an opportunity to meet with and learn from the leadership of Masonic jurisdictions throughout the world. More than one thousand people attended from 58 nations from around the world.
One of the most impressive things to see was how both Masonry and Masonic Charity are universal. Even though presentations were given in English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish, the themes would be recognizable to any Mason in any Lodge. Issues of quality vs quantity, tolerance, and Masonic charity were discussed.
There were three quotes that stood out for me during the presentations. They resonated with me because they reflect the challenges we have today.
"We frequently spend more time looking back 200 years than looking ahead 200 years."
"Leadership is change."
"Charity isn't about donations, it is about outcomes."
Charitable organizations, more than ever, have to adapt to today's realities. To be successful and have impact, they have to look well out into the future. The WA Masonic Charities Board of Trustees has been meeting over the past few months and discussing both what kind of impact we want to have on the Fraternity and the community, as well as how we should go about achieving that impact.
We have realigned our mission statement to reflect our priority areas - youth, seniors and those in need, and Masonic heritage.
The approach we are taking is to use the lens of Masonic Values to determine the issues that makes sense for us to address in the community. We are identifying how WA Masonic Charities can best address these issues. We are identifying partners to work with and are finding ways to involve the Lodges and Masons. Lastly, we are doing this in a way that identifies measurable outcomes so that we can be clear about what impact we are having and that that impact makes a meaningful difference in peoples lives.
To date we have been highly focused on stabilizing and adapting our Masonic Outreach Service program to reflect modern and future needs of our older adults. As part of this we are gradually expanding it to recognize and support both Veteran and active duty service members and their families in need. As we adapt, we are seeing success.
Our Library & Museum is making progress. We are getting the books and articles collections database online, as well as exploring new ways to use our museum's Masonic objects to tell the story of Masonry and present the story in a way that is appealing and informative for both the Masonic Fraternity and the general public. We are redeveloping a simplified way to work with Lodges that are interested and willing to host portions of our book collection and to make them available to Masons in their own communities.
Perhaps our greatest challenge will be to redefine our youth programs to be both strategic and impactful, and to identify a path to fund success. I have proposed a Youth Success Initiative to refocus our efforts on issues that impact children today to include education success, leadership & civility, and assistance for at-risk kids. For example, there are more than 32,000 homeless children attending public schools in Washington State - 68% of these kids are pre-K through 5th grade. Learning success is greatly hampered by home instability. How might we help these kids? As another example, there are roughly 9,000 foster kids in Washington State. These kids graduate at a rate of only 47%, while non-foster kids have an 82% graduation rate. Foster kids as a group are below 50% meeting standards for math, science, reading, and writing. How might we help these kids?
A small group will be meeting to discuss and recommend strategies and next steps. We will keep the Fraternity posted as this develops.
The bottom line is that kids are our future, and the ideals and values of Masonry have much to offer. My sincerest hope is that you'll join and support our efforts to assure that every young person has the opportunity to be safe, to successfully learn, and to become the best young citizen that they are able.
- Fraternally, Ken Gibson, MNPL, Executive Director