Together we make a profound difference

BEST PRACTICE: Supporting public education

HOW-TO: Partner with local schools

April is Public Schools Month

Coming Home: Your success stories

Greatest gift to veterans

Question of the month




BEST PRACTICE: Supporting public education

In 2008 John Bermudez, then-master of California Lodge No. 1 in San Francisco, stood in front of members and asked for an unprecedented level of support for Jose Ortega Elementary School. Just two years later, the lodge has stocked the school library, cut the ribbon on a new computer lab, and donated $17,000.

Bermudez reports:

Background: Prior to 2008, we donated money to schools without rhyme or reason, and never stuck around to see how it was used. We decided we wanted to do something that would impact our own neighborhood.

The school closest to the lodge is Jose Ortega Elementary: a small, diverse school made up of students from some of San Francisco's toughest neighborhoods. For an under-funded school, they showed tremendous gains in educational scoring. They had great potential – and we knew we could make a difference.

Help where help is needed
We met with the principal and asked about the school’s needs, projects, and dreams.

  • Classroom heroes: Many teachers use their own money to purchase classroom supplies, and some even go out of their way to pick up students who need rides to school. As a way to recognize and thank them for their sacrifices, we surprised the school at their Teacher Appreciation assembly, and presented gift cards to every teacher and teaching assistant and the principal.
  • Library expansion: The Parent Teacher Association was struggling to raise money for library books. Their total fundraising over a year usually leveled out at about $2,225. We contributed another $2,500, and through the leadership of Brother Richard Modolo and the late Brother Carl Rowlands, we also collected hundreds of books for donation.
  • Technological tools: Another project at the top of the school’s wish list was an expanded computer lab. We dug deep, and presented a $10,000 donation to the PTA. They were overwhelmed: the contribution boosted them to their fundraising goal. We attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony in December. Now students have six new Mac computers for homework and to become more comfortable with technology.
  • Elbow grease: It’s not always about money. There’s also a big part that’s just getting in there and helping to make the school better. We joined in cleanup days before the school year start, pulling weeds, raking, sweeping, and painting alongside the faculty and parents. We brought sandwiches and snacks for everyone. We’ve all become really good friends.
  • New ideas: We’ve been to other schools and seen what works. Right now, we’re talking with Jose Ortega’s principal about starting a student awards program that we saw at Visitacion Valley Middle School. We’d take charge of purchasing, engraving, and presenting awards.

What it means to the lodge

  • Long-term investment: We can sit by and hold onto our money, or we can help our kids become the leaders of the future. This is our opportunity to help.
  • Member engagement: The school partnership involves the entire membership, from the current master, in his 30s, to our brother Carl Rowlands, who recently passed away at age 76.
  • ROI: By getting to know the faculty, the parents, and the students, we actually get to see the results of our money and hard work, and can find out how to help in the most meaningful ways.
  • Shift in values: We’ve made a commitment for the long haul. There’s been a real paradigm shift, from social events to community events. And now, people want to give. As the saying goes, people want to do good, but you have to show them how.

The partnership benefits our country and it benefits our community. It’s our responsibility to give these kids every opportunity for a better life. It’s for our grandkids, our kids, our nieces and nephews.

I told my lodge back in 2008: We can come to lodge every month, eat our food, and go home, or we can make a difference. We’re making a difference.

Contact: John Bermudez,



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HOW-TO: Partner with local schools

For Public Schools Month and every other month of the year, consider how your lodge can support local schools.

Support school programs

  • Donate money for a teacher's “wish list” for classroom supplies
  • Give students backpacks filled with supplies at the beginning of the school year
  • Distribute dictionaries to students
  • Supply U.S. Constitution booklets for classrooms (middle school and above)
  • Donate money to buy instruments and supplies for the school’s music program
  • Fund an after-school program
  • Donate money to fund school field trips to the state capitol
  • Purchase advertising space in school yearbooks
  • Ask the school librarian to provide a list of desired books, and donate or raise money to purchase them
  • Riviera Lodge No. 780: This lodge worked with its local branch of the Los Angeles public library system to select and donate Masonic books. Now, a full shelf in the Palisades Public Library is dedicated to Masonic literature.

Sponsor contests

  • Essay competition
  • Poster contest
  • Speech contest
  • Writing contest
  • Science fair
  • U.S. Constitution tournament
  • Spelling bee
  • Hesparian Lodge No. 264 and Central Coast Lodge No. 237: Hesparian Lodge has hosted spelling bees for elementary students in Santa Maria Valley for more than 30 years. Today Central Coast Lodge No. 237 partners with them to continue the tradition.

Award excellence

  • Present U.S. Savings Bonds to outstanding students each year
  • Work with a sponsored school’s principal or school district leaders to select and honor a Teacher of the Year
  • Recognize student leaders at a lodge dinner for families
  • Establish a bike reward program
  • Fund college scholarships
  • Clear Lake Callayomi Lodge No. 183: Led by Past Master John Flynn and wife Judy, the lodge initiated an annual golf tournament in 2004 as a scholarship fundraiser. It’s grown each year, and in 2009 some 38 golfers participated. Thanks to revenue, the lodge awarded $2,500 in total scholarships to four local high school students in 2009.


  • Tutor students or read to young children after school
  • Help in a school computer lab or library
  • Offer to paint a playground, plant a garden, or help with time-consuming tasks such as stuffing envelopes
  • Participate in Principal for a Day program
  • Provide lodge space for special student-parent meetings, such as ESL classes
  • Talk with school administrators about other creative ways to volunteer
  • Heartland Lodge No. 576: As head of the Education Committee, Brother Shelley Berman revived a public schools program that recognizes students who struggle with behavioral or motivational issues for positive actions. Every month, he brings certificates and bumper stickers into kindergarten through fourth grade classes on behalf of his lodge. In return, Cajon Valley Union School District named him the 2008-9 Volunteer of the Year.

Have we forgotten something? Please e-mail additional suggestions to with How-To: Partner with local schools in the subject line.


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April is Public Schools Month

Freemasons were champions of our country’s democracy and its cornerstone: the public school system.

In 1920 Grand Master Charles Albert Adams issued the first proclamation for Public Schools Week, as schools battled devastating problems following World War I. It became a statewide tradition, and today, schools and Masons throughout the state celebrate Public Schools Month every April.

The 2010 theme is Public Schools – the Foundation of our Democracy.

This April, make an effort as a lodge to support local schools. This can be as simple as donating school supplies or volunteering to tutor students, or you can begin a new lodge tradition by sponsoring a speech or essay contest, starting a scholarship fund, or officially “adopting” a local public school.

For more ideas, see this month’s How-To article.


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Coming Home: Your success stories

Coming Home reunited long-lost brothers at celebrations throughout the state. At Tustin Lodge No. 241, brothers, family, and friends turned out in droves.

Master Nicholas Jacobs reports:

The stats

  • Attendance: 61 total: 28 members, 33 family members and friends

The preparation

  • Task force: Our entire core line of officers committed themselves to planning the event, including phone calls and extensive historical research. It was truly an “entire-lodge” task force.

The event

  • History buffs: Our event was titled Coming Home 2010 – A Tribute to 241. We celebrated our past and present.
  • Past: We recognized our heritage, dating back to 1875 as Santa Ana Lodge No. 241, by showcasing aprons from 1890, original registers with signatures from the early 1870s, and jewels and tools from the 1800s.
  • Present: We also talked about our current lodge makeup, which is the combination of Santa Ana Lodge No. 241 and Tustin Lodge No. 828. Brother Gary Peterson gave a guest lecture about re-engaging brothers.
  • Special presentation: We designed and premiered a special video about our theme. The combination of modern video, historic memorabilia, and multiple generations of members was very moving.
  • All-inclusive: The theme selection was key. We didn’t want to focus exclusively on early years, which might alienate new members, and we didn’t want to weigh too heavily on the present, which might alienate older generations. Celebrating the lodge as a whole, past and present, made brothers feel welcome regardless of the timeframe they were involved. 

The takeaways

  • New bonds: Our event attracted some newcomers, who are friends of members. They were excited to learn about the history in their own backyards, and even felt invested in the revival of Masonry. We received a petition the very next morning!
  • Renewed bonds: The evening was a tremendous way to reconnect. By recognizing the history of the lodge, we attracted members who, for whatever reason, had felt disconnected after the lodges consolidated. Older members who don’t often leave their own homes made the effort to be at the event. It was very emotional for all of us.


Have a success story of your own? E-mail with Coming Home success story in the subject line.


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Greatest gift to veterans

We've already begun filling seats for the April 15 and April 22 flights to the World War II Memorial – and we need your referrals for veterans and volunteer guardians.

Right now, all Masons who are World War II veterans have priority - but after March 31 we'll open the April flights to all World War II veterans. If we don't have your referrals by then, many deserving brothers may miss out on the trip of a lifetime. Additional flights will be scheduled in May, but it’s important that you submit referrals early.

Give referrals to your lodge secretary, unless your lodge has designated another officer as the Operation Greatest Gift point of contact. Refer:

  • Masons who are World War II veterans who would like to be considered for a trip to the Memorial
  • Masons or non-Masons who are over 18 and interested in accompanying a trip as a volunteer guardian

Secretaries: It's important that you provide the following information for each member referral: full member name, Member ID, address, and phone number.

Send referrals to Joyce Hahn, Foundation programs coordinator, by e-mail to; by mail to 1111 California St., San Francisco, CA 94108; or by phone at 415/292-9139.

Questions? Contact


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Question of the month

Last month we asked if your lodge currently has multiple generations of the same family in its membership. Of the 143 that responded:

87% - Yes
13% - No


Of those that said yes, 24 percent said their lodge included a three-generation family.

Here’s your next question.





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Grand Lodge of California
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p: (415) 776-7000