Braham Djidjelli

Christmas in a bag arrives early for Billericay school

Dozens of young people across Essex with social and emotional health issues will enjoy a better Christmas thanks to a pioneering initiative by a Billericay school and last-minute help from Essex Freemasons.

“Christmas in a bag,” essential basic items such as toothbrushes and clothing, can now be given to students at Ramsden Hall Academy, thanks to a £3,300 grant from the Essex Freemasons Community Fund supported from Masons who are members of Southend-on-Sea Lodge.

The initiative had been in doubt following the loss of sponsorship from local businesses affected by Covid-19. That would have meant that some students, many from families on the edge of poverty, would have had nothing for Christmas.

“It is literally Christmas in a bag for these young people,” said Emma Baker, head teacher at Ramsden Hall Academy. “As well as suffering from social and emotional health issues some of these young people have very little. Some arrive at our school from families that are really struggling in the current pandemic – so we are trying to provide more than just basics and some goodies for them to enjoy at Christmas. I am extremely grateful to Essex Masons for providing such generous funds.”

Ramsden Hall Academy is a residential special school for boys aged 10 to 16 who have an Education, Health and Care Plan for Social, Emotional and Mental Health. It admits up to 100 boys from across the whole county.

The Academy has a remarkable record of success working with students who have mostly been excluded for various reasons, which means that Ramsden Hall is frequently the only place left for boys who have struggled with mainstream education.

Tony Hodgson, Charity Steward for Southend-on-Sea Lodge, commented: “Our Lodge was approached by the Academy for help via my son Ryan who is a teacher at Ramsden Hall. There was apparently no funding available to pay for Christmas in a bag.”

“We as a Lodge could only provide £500 so we asked for further help from the Essex Freemasons Community Fund to make up the difference and they immediately agreed to find the balance needed.”

The money was handed over in earlier in the month so that the initiative could go ahead and on Friday December 11th Head Teacher Emma Baker invited Masons from Southend-on-Sea Lodge together with Assistant Provincial Grand Master Charles Elliott, to see how the money had been spent.

“This is an incredible project that will help so many young people,” said Charles Elliott. “I am delighted that Essex Freemasons have been able to make a difference and is another good example of what we do to help the community.”

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Cross Keys Masonic Centre supporting Women’s Refuge

Thurrock Women’s Refuge

Over the past five years all of the lodges from the Cross Keys Masonic Centre have made generous donations towards the local Women’s Refuge for Christmas. These funds have enabled the Masonic Centre to throw the children from the refuge a special Christmas party as well as supplying selection boxes and gift tokens. The province kindly match funded our donation this year and gave us and extra £500 which was a great help.

We would like to highlight in particular the generosity of Bro Dave Barton of Henry De Gray Lodge 6627 who for the past two years has personally donated a huge bundle of toys as presents for the children, what a lovely gesture.

This years plans to hold a Christmas panto at the Masonic Centre have been cancelled due to the covid pandemic but has been rearranged for next year,  the selection boxes and tokens will still be provided for the children. We are hoping to arrange an event for the children in the spring instead.

We would like to say a special thank you to Linda Mills for helping with the arrangements.

WBro Clive Cheeseman | Henry De Gray Lodge

WBro Chris Bushell | Thurrock Lodge

WBro Roy Mills | St Johns Lodge

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Young Freemasons' Youth Programme Benefits Essex Charities

The Essex Cornerstone Lodge, formed by young Essex Freemasons, continues to lead the way, supporting a growing range of good causes across the county with a youth programme focussed on local charities dedicated to helping young men and women in need.

The latest to benefit as part of this growing programme is The Rob George Foundation.  The RGF is a Colchester based charity, supporting young people all over the UK.  Launched in January 2014, it has so far helped nearly 1,000 young people making grants totalling £591,000.

The Foundation has received a £1,000 grant from the Lodge and the Essex Freemasons Community Fund, which will be used to financially and/or practically support young people facing life threatening or terminal illnesses, or by providing financial help to those young people who demonstrate exceptional commitment or ability in the worlds of sport or the performing arts but are held back from fulfilling their full potential due to a lack of funds.

“This money will help to make a huge difference to the lives of young people,” said Lorraine George, who formed the charity with her husband Philip following the tragic death of their son Rob from Leukaemia, aged just 21. “Our aims were set by Rob himself and we pride ourselves on trying to fulfil his wish that the foundation should ‘Make a Difference - One Individual at a Time.’  Rob was himself a very talented sportsman and the aims reflect that, and his personal experiences and the financial hardships he faced during his illness.  We are also very proud of the fact that we have next to no overheads, so the Freemason’s can relax in the knowledge that just about every single penny of their donation will reach the young people – just as you would want and hope.”

“We are helping many talented individuals, some of whom are on the cusp of Olympic selection, and one of whom has recently been selected to represent team GB at the Paralympics. These youngsters, through illness or disability, have no way of covering all their costs and need help.  The current pandemic has brought many huge challenges to charities, and in common with so many, the Rob George Foundation’s fundraising programme for 2020 was wiped out overnight.   So, understandably we are more grateful than ever (if that’s possible) for this grant from Essex Freemasons.  Our current average grant is running at £633.00, so your grant will help make nearly two whole grants – that’s two real young people who will hopefully feel we have together ‘Made a Difference’ to their lives.”

The £1,000 was presented to the Foundation by Paul Palmer, Jack Gilliland, and Jonathon Glynn from the Essex Cornerstone Lodge, at a short ceremony at Essex County Cricket Ground. Jack commented: “Our Lodge is formed of present & past members of the Essex Cornerstone Club - which is for young freemasons aged up to 41, so it is understandable that we wish to support charities that help other young people. The Rob George Foundation does just that, an incredible job, which is why we were pleased to help.”

Present at the ceremony was Assistant Provincial Grand Master Peter Hollingsworth, who praised the work of the charity and the Essex Cornerstone Lodge for their ongoing youth programme which is seeing more and more Essex charities benefit. Also pictured are Paul Palmer (WM), Jack Gilliland (secretary), and Jonathon Glynn (treasurer) from the Essex Cornerstone Lodge No. 9968, and Lorraine & Philip George from the Rob George Foundation.

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