Wigan group giving day
Wigan group’s first giving day was held at Bryn Masonic Hall and proved to be a very popular and successful event. The idea behind the day was to bring together the representatives of those non-Masonic charities which, throughout the year, had been recipients of donations from various lodges in the group.
The format was quite a simple one. The Group Chairman, Malcolm Taylor chaired the event, together with Tony Bent, the Assistant Provincial Grand Master responsible for the group. The regional charity steward, John Parrott took on the main speaking role, with the group secretary, Stewart Blagg as usual doing the hard work behind the scenes organising everything.
John commenced proceedings by introducing everyone, and giving an explanation of the history of Freemasonry and the charity structure at both national and local level, stressing the ‘widow’s mite’ principle in Masonic giving. He explained that the vast majority of charitable donations originated not from large corporate gifts, but from lots and lots of small donations from individual members, at meetings and socials, a few pounds here and a few pounds there, on a weekly or monthly basis. It is the quantity and regularity of those small amounts that allows Freemasons to support charities both Masonic and non-Masonic in nature.
John then invited representatives of each of the charities to say a few words about the work they do, and give some indication of how the donations are applied and the effect on people and the community. Following that, a formal presentation of a cheque was made by a representative of the donating lodge.
In total, cheques to the value of £10,556 were donated on the day, and when added to previous donations, a total of £20,230 by the group to non-Masonic charities.
20 charities were represented as follows:
Alzheimer’s Society was represented by Mike Mills and the donation was from Arrowhead Lodge of Freedom No 8500.
Boys Brigade was represented by Alan McLoughlin and the donation was from Arrowhead Lodge of Freedom.
Breast Cancer Research and the donation was from Hope Lodge No 4003.
Butterflies (Wigan) was represented by Catherine Martindale and the donation was from Wigan Lodge No 2326.
Derian House was represented by Jackie Cox and the donation was from Arrowhead Chapter.
Dig In Donna was represented by Rowe Green and the donation was from Corinthian Lodge No 2350.
Heartbeat 2 was represented by Elizabeth Titley and Councillor Billy Rotherham and the donation was from Corinthian Chapter, National 3 Peaks Challenge and the Wigan and District Masonic Golfing Society.
Ella Performance Group was represented by Yvonne Smallman and Jason Pilkington and the donation was from Ashton Trinity Lodge No 8821.
Francis House was represented by Peter Forster and the donation was from Arrowhead Lodge of Freedom.
Help for Heroes was represented by David Roberts and the donation was from Orrell Lodge No 8371.
MacMillan Care was represented by Philip Shuttleworth and the donation was from Arrowhead Lodge of Freedom.
Motor Neurone Disease was represented by Joan Fishwick and the donation was from Hope Lodge No 4003.
NW Air Ambulance was represented by Joanne Fowler and the donation was from Arrowhead Chapter and National 3 Peaks Challenge.
Parkinson’s Disease was represented by Jean Donagain and the donation was from Ashton Trinity Lodge No 8821.
Prostate Cancer Research Campaign was represented by Peter Pemberton and the donation was from Corinthian Chapter and Norley Lodge No 7319.
Rainbow House The Legacy was represented by Moira Cannon and the donation was from National 3 Peaks Challenge.
Greater Manchester West Scouts was represented by Steve Ralphs and the donation was from Arrowhead Lodge of Freedom.
Stroke Research and Support was represented by Jim Brown and the donation was from Willows Lodge No 5343.
West Lancashire Positive Living was represented by Alison Tupling and John Haggart and the donation was from Ashton Trinity Lodge.
Wigan and Leigh Hospice was represented by Dr Alan Barron and the donation was from Ashton Trinity Lodge, Arrowhead Chapter, Corinthian Lodge No 2350, Alan Grice, Wigan Group and Willows Lodge.
Each of the representatives not only gave an insight into their particular cause, but told heart warming stories, and really brought home the dedication and passion that each and every one of them put into their individual charities. No one in the room was left untouched by the experience.
Mike Mills from the Alzheimer’s Society talked about the ageing population and the future problems with dementia on the increase, and having to care for seven or eight new patients per week in the local area, and highlighted the new work they were embarking on to set up dementia friendly communities.
Alan McLoughlin from the Boys’ Brigade had been a previous beneficiary of Masonic charities, and was delighted to explain how they had been able to replace a boiler in their activity centre as a result of the latest gift.
Catherine Martindale of Butterflies told how donations helped them to provide food and shoes and clothing for the not so well off children from the Wigan area, while Jackie Cox explained the work of Derian House hospice, making the short time the children have full of, not only care, but fun and happiness as well.
Donna Rowe Green runs “Dig In”, which works with military veterans, who often return from active duty with emotional challenges. They are provided with a sanctuary, a walled garden, which helps them to focus on the positive things and overcome some of their difficulties in re-adjusting.
Heartbeat 2 was presented by Elizabeth Titley and Councillor Billy Rotherham, and is the Mayor’s chosen charity. The charity funds comfort facilities for people who have had heart procedures. Councillor Rotherham himself had gone through such a procedure seven years ago, when he had a stent fitted, and found the experience a bit like a conveyor belt, so was pleased to support the initiative to provide somewhere comfortable for patients to recover in.
Yvonne Smallman, accompanied by one of her performers Jason Pilkington, explained that Ella Performance was a group that put on drama and musical productions working with youngsters with learning difficulties, building confidence and enjoyment in these talented young people, who were looking forward to their next production, Oliver.
Peter Forster from Francis House, very similar to Derian House, was pleased with the timing of the donation, as they were following a new initiative, a seven bed young adult’s centre to plug what was identified as a greatly needed addition to their facilities.
David Roberts, from Help the Heroes in the North West, told how 27% of the British Army came from the North West, nearly a third of which had suffered traumatic injury. The organisation, thanks to kind donations, has gone from strength to strength, and continues to support our returning heroes.
Cancer affects one in three, and in 20 years it will be one in two, said Philip Shuttleworth of McMillan Care, so it will touch all of our lives. The charity needed to raise £150,000,000 last year, and was glad to exceed that by £30,000,000, allowing them to open a new information centre in Wigan.
Joan Fishwick shared her personal experiences of the terrible Motor Neurone Disease, and explained that all monies raised go to people in the area, and supports not only those directly affected, but supports families and carers.
Joanne Fowler is the regional fundraiser for the North West Air Ambulance, and acknowledged the support received from Wigan and the Province for years, stating that they delighted to have a third ambulance to be based at Liverpool, which she believed wouldn’t have been possible without the help from Freemasons. The aim is to be never more than 10 minutes from treatment, wherever an incident occurs in the region.
Jean Donagain explained the effects of Parkinson’s disease, and ailment with no cure, not fatal, but with progressively worsening symptoms. No-one knows what causes it, but the charity organises support groups, with people to turn to who understand. The support network is expanding and local people will now have the opportunity to find a friendly ear at Standish Community Centre.
Peter Pemberton supports the Prostate Cancer Research Campaign after a friend was diagnosed with the disease and he discovered to his horror that 36,000 men a year and increasing are diagnosed, causing 10,000 needless deaths. The charity aims to raise awareness and early diagnosis and fund research to establish a conclusive non-invasive diagnostic test.
Rainbow House is a small charity to help children who develop brain disease and medical diagnosis seems hopeless. Using activity and play therapy, teaching children how to roll, grab and play with toys etc, remarkable results are achieved, and quality of life greatly enhanced. As Moira Cannon explained, these children don’t read the same rule book as the medical experts, and develop beyond all expectations.
Steve Ralph told of how Greater Manchester West Scouts benefitted from the money they received by improving their Bispham Hall campsite, leader training, and supporting international scouting events.
Jim Brown represented Stroke Research & Support, which aims to reduce strokes and their effects by funded research. This charity is supported by Willows Lodge, whose immediate past master, Gerry English, is himself recovering having suffered a stroke.
Alison Tupling and John Haggart told everyone about West Lancashire Positive Living, which supports learning disabled adults, helping them to have choices, give them work, and find enjoyment in life. There latest initiative is the purchase of a static caravan in Blackpool for the benefit of their clients.
Finally, Dr Alan Barron from Wigan & Leigh Hospice thanked the lodges for their support since 1983, and for their regular donations to assist in the running costs.
In summarising the event, Tony Bent in his final address, stated that it was uplifting and humbling to see so many people giving up time and effort to care for others, and added, that as far as the Wigan group of Freemasons are concerned, “We care, and we will support you”.
Light refreshments followed, but the interest in the good causes continued.
Malcolm said: “It was a wonderful event to be part of, and was a fitting testament to those pure Masonic ornaments, which proclaim that giving really does ‘bless him that gives as well as he who receives’ and leaves us all safe in the knowledge that our gifts have been ‘thankfully received and faithfully applied’”.