2012-10-19 / Community

Masons unlock the mystery at open house

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

Freemasonry has had a long and storied history in the country since it was brought to the United States more than 260 years ago. Many of this country’s founding fathers – including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and John Hancock – were Masons.

That history will be honored Saturday, Oct. 20, as Masonic Lodges throughout the state, including lodges in Saco, South Portland and Scarborough, will hold open houses.

The Hiram Lodge at 111 Ocean St. in South Portland also has a long history of giving back to the community, dating back to 1875.

“We try to identify needs in the community and contribute back to the community as best we can,” said Worshipful Master David Gleason.

Some of the contributions include participating in Toys for Tots and winter coat programs for children, as well as assisting the local soup kitchen.

“We try to help out families around the holidays or people in the community who might be less fortunate,” Gleason said.

The Hiram Lodge will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., during which time the public can see the facility, meet members and watch a DVD that chronicles the history of Freemasonry.

Gleason got involved with Hiram Lodge 10 years ago after hearing about Freemasonry from his family.

“It’s something that my father and brother were involved with,” he said. “I decided I wanted to learn more about it, so I went to a meeting. I like the fellowship and all the work we do to contribute (to the community).”

One of the projects the lodge is currently working on, Gleason said, is starting a youth chapter for young men ages 12 to 21.

Gleason said Freemasonry “is not a secret organization,” like some think it is. Rather, it is a social organization aimed at bettering its members and the community.

“Masonry is not for everybody,” Gleason said. “We try to get the best men in the community to join. We try not to be selective, but we want to make sure the men who do join meet the high standards and have a high moral quality.”

The Saco Lodge, located in at 258 Main St., will hold its open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event will include a luncheon and a tour of the facility, where the lodge has been located since the early 1900s, when the building was built.

“What we want to do is show people we are not hiding in the shadows,” said Gordon Workman, worshipful master of the Saco Lodge, which dates back to 1802 at a different location.

“The idea is to invite people into our lodge to see it and hear some of the brethren speak. It is an opportunity for us to meet the community and for the community to meet us.”

Workman, who has been involved with the lodge for the last 10 years, said a big part of being a Mason is about giving back to the community, both as a lodge and individually.

“We encourage our brethren to go out in the community to help out,” Workman said. “We, as Masons, believe as you make yourself better, you make the community better.”

Scott Whytock, a member of the Gov. William King Lodge in Scarborough, said this year the Grand Lodge of Maine has put more money into advertising and marketing in an effort to get new members. Last year, he said, 2 percent of the budget was spent on membership development. This year that figure has grown to 18 percent.

Clearly defining what Masonry is for a television or radio ad, he said, can be a difficult thing.

“One of the problems we have is, this fraternity can be so many things to so many people that it is hard to brand,” said Whytock, who has been a Mason since 2003. “We need to brand what we do better in a way that will attract the people we want, but not in the way we reached people 40, 50, or 60 years ago.”

Members of the public will have a better sense of what Masons do when the Scarborough lodge holds its open house from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20.

Scarborough’s lodge, located at 649 Route 1, is the second youngest in the state. It was founded 51 years ago and a number of its 120 members are founding members. It is named for Mason and former governor William King.

Whytock said at 1 p.m., there will be a kick-off to the Toys for Tots program. This is the second year the lodge has participated in the program, an initiative started in 1947 by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve to distribute toys to needy children.

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