Together we make a profound difference

Fighting Fires with Fraternity

As wildfires blazed throughout Northern California, Masons and lodges banded together to make a difference. Marian McKenna – wife of Bro. Greg McKenna, a member of Mount Jackson Lodge No. 295 and Santa Rosa Luther Burbank Lodge No. 57 – reports that feelings of empathy and gratitude were intertwined in their hometown of Winsdor, where “every lamppost and fence has thank-you messages to first responders. Every store has free or discounted things for those who lost homes. There are opportunities to donate everywhere.”


Supporting First Responders
Bro. Brant Dierke, a father of three, lives in Sebastopol with his wife and is a 20-year member of Phoenix Lodge No. 144 in San Francisco. As the general manager of Napa Auto Parts, the largest car and truck parts store in Sonoma County, he found himself on the front lines of relief efforts, helping CalFire, local fire departments, first responders, utility truck drivers, and independent truck and tractor operators get the parts they needed to keep emergency vehicles functioning.

In the first three days of the North Bay fires alone, Dierke logged requests for parts. As many of the store’s employees lived in the fires’ path, he and a skeleton crew worked 18-hour days for nearly three weeks, delivering the parts to those who urgently needed them. At the same time, at his home, Dierke and his family took in friends and relatives who had no other place to go. The Sunday following the fire, Dierke, who is an assistant scoutmaster for his two sons’ Boy Scout Troop, assisted the Scouts in serving nearly 900 breakfast plates of pancakes and eggs to first responders at 5:00 a.m and raising more than $20,000 to support North Bay fire victims. Afterwards, he returned to work to deliver yet more needed parts to the same first responders.

“Serving the community and supporting the first responders during this time was a priority for me,” said Dierke. “If helping first responders keep their equipment running saved a life or a home, it was worth the effort.”


Devotion Despite Disaster
At Petaluma Hamilton Lodge No. 180, members showed deep devotion to their ritual commitments, despite extraordinary obstacles in their own lives. Past Master Tony Timmer had lost everything at his home except for his truck and clothes he escaped in. Four days later, he attended lodge, as planned, to assume his role in a third degree conferral.

Another brother from a neighboring lodge had been asked to stand in as senior deacon for this third degree. Like Timmer, he had lost everything except for one set of clothing and his vehicle. Still, he attended the degree as scheduled and performed the extensive duties of the senior deacon flawlessly and proudly. To thank him, a past master took him to a tuxedo store the following day and bought him a full tuxedo including shirt, tie, cufflinks, and shoes. Says Guy M. Chalmers, master of the lodge, “We had a great time together at the lodge at a time when the Masonic virtues were needed the most and when everyone in the community needed a diversion.”


Home-Grown Relief
Past Master Donald M. Walden, a resident of the Masonic Home at Union City, reports that his grandchildren have set up a website to sell stickers, clothing, and hats whose proceeds benefit the Redwood Credit Union Fire relief. To date, they have raised more than $14,500. The logo created for this special effort reads, “From Ash Comes Love.” Visit the store.


Relief for Four-Legged Friends
In San Rafael, Bro. Paul Dana – senior warden of Phoenix Lodge – opened his business to help dog owners affected by the fires. Dana owns Park-A-Pup Kennels, which provides daytime and overnight care for local dogs. As the fires spread, he was soon inundated with calls from frantic dog owners unsure of what to do with their pets as they sought temporary housing in the wake of the fires, much of which did not allow pets.

 

“Originally we weren’t an active shelter, but we turned into one very quickly,” Dana explained. His staff offered discounts to new clients who needed boarding and free services to families who were fostering dogs displaced by fires in the surrounding areas.

 

A major challenge was that very few new clients had access to their pets’ vaccination records, due to destroyed or evacuated homes and veterinary hospitals. To avoid the spread of disease, Dana and his team built temporary isolation kennels to house new dogs apart from those whose vaccinations had been confirmed. He then worked with vet hospitals in the local areas to bring veterinarians to the kennel to administer vaccines. The kennel was soon housing 30-40 dogs each day – many of which may remain there for an indeterminable time as families whose homes were destroyed are still working to determine their next steps.

 

Still, Dana is happy to be a part of the rescue efforts. “Giving back is what being a Mason is all about,” he says. “I’m happy to do what I can in this situation where families are facing extreme hardship and uncertainty. Knowing that their dogs are taken care of them gives them peace of mind – and that’s worth a lot.”


The Masonic Homes Steps In
Masonic Homes’ residents and staff were committed to giving back in the community’s time of need. The Home Association Team at the Masonic Home at Union City, which is responsible for staff-oriented events, organized a major clothing and blanket drive in support of fire victims. They gathered enough donations to fill two large trucks, then assisted local fire and rescue personnel in delivering the donations to evacuation centers throughout the North Bay.

“I am so proud of our staff in taking the initiative to organize this event and to go over and beyond the call of duty in helping to deliver the donations to those in need,” says Masonic Homes of California President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Charland. “They are truly exemplifying the Masonic values upon which our organization was founded.”


From Hard Times Comes Togetherness
As Marian McKenna wrote, following disaster, “your world has changed, even when you come through it personally unharmed.”

And, adds Dierke, “Cal Fire, Santa Rosa Fire, and all other first responder agencies did a fantastic job!  Their dedication to public safety and protection of property was exceptional during the worst firestorm in state history. I am sure that amongst the first responders or the people they protected there was a brother helping a brother. It is the duty of all Masons to help a brother in need – sometimes knowingly and sometimes not.”

Thank you to all the brothers and friends who gave back to their communities during this extreme time of need.

 

Help for fire survivors: If you are a member of our Masonic family in need of relief following the fires, please contact Masonic Assistance at (888) 466-3642 to speak with a member of our outreach team. Learn more about fire relief.

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