Dear Brethren of California,
As you might have heard in news reports, wildfires are spreading rapidly in Northern California, destroying hundreds of homes and requiring thousands of people to evacuate. The Butte Fire is burning in Amador and Calaveras counties. The Valley Fire, which ignited over the weekend, is burning in Lake, Napa, and Sonoma counties.
We have a number of lodges and hundreds of Masons, Masonic widows, and members of our greater Masonic family in these areas, many of whom have been forced to evacuate because their homes are in danger. To date, we are not aware of any loss of life among our members or their families. We are also not aware of any damage to our lodge buildings at this point, but there are Masonic buildings in the fire areas. If you are aware of a lodge building that has suffered damage, please contact Grand Secretary Allan Casalou by email email@example.com or by telephone at (415) 269-1971.
Of course, this is a time when our fraternity will come together and provide whatever assistance is needed. There are a number of local agencies, including Red Cross chapters, which are providing food and shelter to evacuees. Evacuation centers have been set up in many areas. There will no doubt be other needs that must be addressed.
Lodges can provide relief. The Charity Committee is authorized to draw upon lodge funds, up to the amount of $100 (or a greater amount if the lodge has a standing resolution for additional funds) at any one time for the relief of a Master Mason and his wife or widow. If additional relief funds are needed, the lodge master may call a Special Meeting of the lodge. There is no limit to the relief the lodge may provide when approved by a vote at the Special Meeting. A lodge, at its own discretion, may also assist Entered Apprentice and Fellow Craft Masons.
The Special Meeting does not require notice, and only five lodge members are required to form a quorum. The meeting may take place at the regular lodge meeting place or in another convenient location that is safe and suitable for a lodge meeting. If the meeting will not take place in the regular lodge meeting place, consult with your inspector who can grant a dispensation. If your inspector cannot be reached, I hereby grant a dispensation to all lodges in the areas affected by these fires to hold a Special Meeting, for the purpose of dispensing charity, at any safe and suitable location designated by the master. This dispensation is effective through October 10, 2015 and only applies if the inspector cannot be consulted about the suitability of the meeting place.
The Grand Lodge has relief funds. If there are needs greater than the lodge can provide, or if it is impossible to hold a Special Meeting of the lodge, the Grand Lodge can provide relief funds. Please contact Grand Secretary Allan Casalou for more information or to make a request. His contact information is above. You may also contact the Grand Lodge office at (415) 776-7000 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The grand secretary has notified the Masonic Service Association of North America (MSA) about the fires and the status of our current situation. A national relief appeal has not yet been requested. We will determine if an appeal is needed once the scope of the fire’s damage and number of affected Masons is known.
Some people are offering relief in the form of gift cards from stores like Target and Walmart so that evacuees can purchase food, clothing, and other necessities. Many of these gift cards can be purchased online and sent to the recipient by mail or email, or to a mobile phone.
Linda and I are very concerned for everyone who is affected by these fires, especially those in our Masonic family. We pray that the damage will be limited and that all those in harm’s way will remain safe and healthy.
Sincerely and fraternally,
Russell E. Charvonia