From “time immemorial” it has been the custom and practice of Masonic Lodges to relieve human distress wherever it existed. The principle tenets of Freemasonry are: Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.
Some may consider that Relief means to extend Charity. However, when Relief is extended to a worthy individual it is an act of Brotherly Love, rather than Charity. Freemasonry endeavors to impress this fact upon the members. There are many ways to extend Relief rather than financial… a friendly word in time of distress, a visit, a sounding board for problems, etc. Many Lodges and Grand Lodges have permanent programs for extending aid to those in need.
The Symbolic Lodges maintain a Charity Committee which oversees local needs. Their activity would include alleviating short term distress. For example, a particular Master Mason died of cancer while quite young. His daughter had one semester of college to complete for her degree. His widow has little money. His lodge took up a collection and in two weeks had secured the means for the girl to complete her education. Hundreds of similar acts of Masonic Charity are extended by the Symbolic Lodges weekly. In addition, the Lodges maintain permanent committees to sponsor the Charitable Objectives of their Grand Lodges.
A great number of Grand Lodges maintain homes for the elderly. They also operate and support homes for orphan children. In our world today, social orphans far outnumber biological orphans and the Masonic fraternity is dedicated to improving the future of the next generation. Additionally, many Grand Lodges are supporting medical research programs and medical centers.
The national youth organizations of The Order of DeMolay for Boys, The Order of Rainbow and The Order of Job’s Daughters for Girls, are sponsored and/or supported by the Masonic Fraternity.Excerpted from: A History and Handbook, The York Rite of Freemasonry, by Frederic G. Speidel