In a meeting last year in November the Five of Nine Club’s committee members met to discuss and plan our forthcoming activities. It was unanimously agreed that we all wanted to give back to the most vulnerable and those in need over the festive season. Although we came up with a number of ideas, it was felt that we should pursue an activity that would have a real, practical and immediate effect on those that we sought assist and support.
So we decided to build on the great work and success of our last Freemasonry in the Community event at Acorns Children’s Hospice, where Five of Nine members got stuck in, rolled their sleeves up and completely redecorated their function room with friends and family. Our efforts were even captured in the local press, and our Chairman also explored our hands-on commitment to charities in the Winter (2016) edition of Freemasonry Today.
At a time when many are enjoying spending time with their families, and frankly enjoying the excesses of life, who has the least? The homeless. With that in mind the search began, and we managed to locate a small friendly local charity based in the centre of Birmingham called Birmingham Homeless Outreach. Having received the support of our Patron the Right Worshipful Brother David F. Macey PGM and the Provincial Grand Lodge of Warwickshire, our initiative soon turned into a provincial activity. The Five of Nine Club’s appeal for food, clothing, blankets, and any items that brethren could spare spread across the province.
The donation boxes that were left in many of the Masonic Centres were over flowing, from Rugby to Redditch, and Birmingham to Coventry the brethren and their families made us proud. Although there are too many individual lodges that supported us to name them individually, we have to mention Monolithos Lodge No. 8475. The Master and brethren of Monolithos Lodge raised over £150 for our ‘Help Us Help the Homeless’ event, and went on a shopping spree to purchase to specific items to help the homeless through the cold wet winter. In addition, Dan Norman deserves a mention for his colossal achievements in raising support from the Lodge of Development who donated two large boxes of body-warmers, over sixty blankets, and bags and bags of clothes.
Finally, we also have to mention the efforts of a special young lady, Hope Robinson. The daughter of our brother Jeff from the Lodge of Happiness No. 7952, who not only gave her free time to help on the day, but handmade over 85 bags each packed with essential items to assist the vulnerable individuals we sought to help. From what started as Hope simply giving her Christmas chocolate away, her efforts inspired others to contribute to her efforts and quickly snowballed whereby individuals from the local school, her friends and shops all contributed items. Each draw string bag contained, dog food, gloves, socks, tissues, deodorant, crisps, cereal bars, chocolate bars, tooth paste and a toothbrush, while the ladies bags included feminine items as well.
The lead up to our event was ground breaking, we have never before been aware of any group within Warwickshire Freemasonry that has carried off such a feat and been able to rally such support and generosity from the brethren to support a cause that in most cases had nothing to do with their own lodges charitable aims.
Our event took place on a grey, wet and drizzly Saturday morning, as we all gathered in the cold it soon became clear why our initiative was so important and desperately needed. Homelessness is a growing problem in the UK, and ‘…rough sleeping in Birmingham has hit record levels after rising 53 per cent in one year’. The Five of Nine Club’s organisation and planning was first class, we managed to get over 35 members of the club with their families and friends to join with us at the location, all on time, with many bringing extra donations to hand out on the day.
Unfortunately, the rest of the day didn’t quite go to plan. In short we were let down. We were let down as the charity simply didn’t turn up. We were somewhat disappointed to say the least. However, we were more disappointed by the possibility that so many homeless people may have missed out, and the fact it was beyond our control.
Nevertheless, we were committed to seeing our good work through. We created a distribution point at the side of St. Martins Church in the Bullring, and encouraged a number of homeless people to spread the word across the town centre to those that were sleeping rough - about the clothes, blankets, food and other numerous items that were available to them. And come they did, it was buzzing and it was a hive of activity for a number of hours. Our members along our families and friends were fully involved, distributing many items directly to those we set out to help, everyone interacted well and made a difference to people’s lives with a positive meaningful impact.
We received so many donation from across the province we were able to give a large number of items directly to St. Martins Church, where the vulnerable who sleep rough often visit in their hour of need for support. It doesn’t stop there either. We were also were able to support a tremendous well established charity called ‘Shelter’. We felt more confident that this organisation with its own team of specialist outreach workers would reach the people we sought to serve. The manager and workers at Shelter were extremely delighted to receive such a huge amount of items and donations, which they will be able to distribute and also sell on to raise money for their charitable exercises.
So regardless that the day didn't go quite to plan we are very positive when we look back at what we have achieved with the support of our members and the brethren from across the province of Warwickshire, it was fantastic. Thank you again to everybody that helped us help the homeless.
By C. Burke