"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Encouraging Local Volunteerism In Your Masonic Lodge

by Christopher Hodapp

Are members of your lodge especially active in volunteering in your community? Or are you looking for ways to get your lodge involved in local volunteer programs to help your town or neighborhood? For many years, Americorps and the Points of Light global network have jointly awarded the President's Volunteer Service Awards to hundreds of individuals and organizations all over the U.S. in recognition of their dedication and service to local communities. Masons and Masonic lodges are among the different types of civic, social, religious and non-profit organizations that qualify for the award.

From the program's website:
In 2003, the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation founded the President’s Volunteer Service Award to recognize the important role of volunteers in America’s strength and national identity. This award honors individuals whose service positively impacts communities in every corner of the nation and inspires those around them to take action, too.

The PVSA has continued under each administration since that time, honoring the volunteers who are using their time and talents to solve some of the toughest challenges facing our nation. Led by the AmeriCorps and managed in partnership with Points of Light, this program allows Certifying Organizations to recognize their most exceptional volunteers.
In order for a lodge to participate and make its members eligible, it must become a Certifying Organization by filling out an application and taking a short quiz to be sure you understand the program's requirements.
A Certifying Organization is an organization that has been granted authority through an application and review process to give out the PVSA to volunteers. Certifying Organizations verify and certify that a volunteer has met the requirements to receive a PVSA within a 12 month period specified by the Certifying Organization. Only Certifying Organizations can certify volunteers’ eligibility for the PVSA and order awards.

Certifying Organizations must be established and operate in the United States, its territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands), or on overseas U.S. military and state installations. Additionally, Certifying Organizations must receive or facilitate volunteer service.

The award has several different levels, depending upon how many hours in a 12-month period are provided by an individual or (Bronze, Silver, Gold and Lifetime) for "unpaid acts of volunteer service benefitting others." 

In the agreement, your lodge becomes a certifying organization that keeps careful track of how many hours are volunteered, who performed that service, and reporting them to the awards program. The lodge also agrees to cover the cost of the award package itself, which, if you go whole hog on the options, costs less than $30. The award can include the official President’s Volunteer Service Award pin, coin, or medallion; a personalized certificate of achievement; and letter signed by the President.

Once the proper level of hours is reached, the lodge nominates that member for the award, and confers it when it arrives. The award is also accompanied by a congratulatory letter from the sitting President of the United States. Before anyone starts caterwauling about presidential politics, understand that every president since George W. Bush has supported this program. It is a completely non-partisan program designed to recognize and reward volunteerism, and Americorps relies on you as their certifying organization to tabulate the hours and apply for the awards.

Also have a look at the Points Of Light Global Network website for ways to get your local lodge involved in civic volunteerism. Groups like United Way work with churches, lodges and other similar groups to pair volunteers with programs in the community.


  1. Our Masonic lodge is not a Lion's Club, or a Kiwanis Club, nor do we want to be. None of us became Freemasons so we could wear orange safety vests and clean up two miles of highway four times a year. We did not petition for the mysteries of Freemasonry so we could volunteer at community events and projects.

    That is not to say that our members don't do those things, but we don't need to be Freemasons in order to do those things. Some of our members are in the local Lion's Club, and some of our members are in the Kiwanis Club, and some of our members have no interest in either of those, and that is okay.

    So, why did we become Freemasons? Because we were interested in Freemasonry, participating in Freemasonry, and learning about Freemasonry, its beautiful symbolism, complex philosophy and ancient history. Not because we wanted to volunteer in community projects.

    Masonic lodges would be more successful if they focussed on Freemasonry, and stopped trying to be service clubs.

    1. That's why we usually have hundreds of lodges in every state. A Masonic lodge reflects the interests and participation of its members, and as a general rule, I stopped declaring that somebody else is doing Freemasonry wrong. We started Lodge Vitruvian in Indiana now 20 years ago this month to offer a more formal and intellectually satisfying lodge experience than was otherwise available in our state. After two decades of example, there are really only five or six other lodges here (out of about 360) that use a similar model to us.

      Similarly, the Masonic Restoration Federation was established at just about the same time as our lodge to spread the gospel of 'best-practices, traditional observance, or observant style' lodges throughout the U.S. Despite plenty of us out there preaching our evangel to other frustrated Masons, there are still less than about 70 of these lodges nationwide. There has been no stampede to fill them up.

      So if your lodge is packed with brainboxes and philosophers, while a pancake and card party lodge meets in your same building, how does that break your leg or pick your pocket? In the late 1700s, Grand Lodges in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia quite openly chartered lodges in the frontier wilderness to civilize an uneducated population and make their members a new breed of civic leaders. They were very blatant about it. They weren't trying to turn buckskin-wearing hill jacks into a crowd of Voltaires, they were preparing them to run a democratic republic. So no, I'm not going to tell pancake and card party lodges they're doing it wrong, as long as they serve their membership.

    2. I'll also point out that a very large number of men contacting lodges about membership specifically want to know what the local lodge does for the community. In many circles, the fraternity has a strong reputation for charity and volunteerism. In fact, in the U.K., it's extremely commonplace for stories in the press or circulated by UGLE to tout the fact that they are the second largest charity in the country, and there is a constant barrage of local stories about the latest ambulance, helicopter, rescue boat or other big ticket item donated by the local Masons.

      No, I don't believe charity and volunteerism is our primary (or even secondary) mission as Masons. I am saying that we have plenty of variety among our lodges in each state to allow the local members to hold activities that satisfy their interests and desires.

    3. It isn't our primary mission, but it sure is fun to do with brothers and as brothers. And that's the thing, it is a fraternity and not community service or deputy-supervised work release. There is a time and place for fellowship and chewing the fat, there is a time and place for seriousness and ritual, and there is a time and place for just having fun while helping our small rural communities. If it feels like a constant chore without enjoyment or satisfaction, then perhaps the lodge needs to work on brotherly love. The lodge simply isn't just a two hour twice a month thing, it is a living organic entity composed of dozens or more of brothers.

  2. I agree with David. That said, volunteer service goes hand in hand with my interpretation of Freemasonry, so I am an active volunteer where I believe I can have a positive impact.

  3. Last weekend our lodge put on a blood drive and bbq sale for the lodge. We had good participation from the community and gave free bbq plates to anyone who donated blood. I was happy to be doing something that extended beyond ritual and find it important to our Masonic institution to always consider charity. I believe if masons only consider their lodge on all their activities, membership will suffer as a result.

  4. Volunteerism is far from the only way, but it IS a GREAT way, to build that house not made with hands.


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