I had the opportunity to visit the Masonic Home in Covina, California a couple of weeks ago. This was my second visit this year. This time I was attending a District VIII Lodge Outreach Program. It was an all-day affair to help spread the word about California’s Masonic Assistance Programs for Freemasons in the state. As liaison coordinators for this program in our Lodges, we are expected to share this knowledge with our Brethren and their families. Moreover, we are expected to attend further training sessions each quarter for the duration of our participation.
This online article will be kept brief; however, its intent is to inform Masons in the state of California about the services available to them and their families; and to highlight several of the most important issues I thought Masons should be aware of. Furthermore, by discussing these services with the broader Craft, I hope to encourage Freemasons to support and expand such programs in other states and countries as well.
There are two branches under the Masonic Assistance Program in California. First are the better-known Masonic Homes in Covina and Union City. Yet there is also the lesser-known Masonic Outreach Services, which includes assistance for a Mason’s immediate family; and another outreach program for seniors who may need help before entering the home program, or for those who want to maintain an independent lifestyle. I must emphasize, if at any time you have a question, feel free to call the help-line at 1-888-466-3642 and leave a message. I have been assured that your call will more than likely be returned by the end of the day; if not, please be patient, as the staff tend to spend a great deal of time with each caller. I have found the staff to be incredibly friendly and well informed about senior and family issues, and they are available to help answer your questions if a need should arise.
It should also be mentioned that the Masonic assistance phone-line, 1-888-466-3642, is ready to help any Mason or family member who might have questions, not just California Freemasons. Several examples were given at this training conference, which demonstrated an overt willingness to help Masonic families connect with services in other states. In particular were the widows of Masons who needed guidance from everything from Social Security benefits to Masonic services in other states. The staff members on the other end of the phone are ready and willing to help the broader Masonic family with questions; just give them a call if you have a concern you would like addressed. It is always better to ask then wait to find out later you had done something wrong.
I do want to emphasize several key points before writing any further about this Masonic Jewel in California. Freemasons and their families need to be aware of several issues that can lead to a problem. In order to be eligible for these programs, a Mason must be a member of the Grand Lodge of California (Blue Lodge) in good standing; among other things, this means your dues must be up to date. I have been told that sometimes a man will go into the hospital for a lengthy duration and the wife or other family members dismiss the payment notices, which can lead to his suspension (i.e. good standing). Moreover, many Freemasons live in the state of California and are members of other Masonic Orders, like York Rite and Scottish Rite, etc, but never bother to affiliate with a Blue Lodge in California. Remember, York Rite and Scottish Rite are national or regional Orders and are separately run from a state’s Grand Lodge. It must be stressed, the money to pay for these services came from the dues, and other private donations, of Blue Lodge members in the state of California; as such, services, other than the help-line, will only be distributed amongst its members and their family members; under certain eligibility requirements.
In short, to be eligible for these services make sure your dues are paid; as well, become a member of a Lodge in California. The surest way to know if you are eligible for these services is by having an updated California Blue Lodge dues card, which also has the phone number for these services on it. It should also be mentioned that you must have been a member for at least five years before you can receive any benefits. And please don’t forget to discuss these services with your immediate family members, who might be in charge of your affairs if you become incapacitated.
Furthermore, I did not know that my mother would have been eligible for these services. She has since passed away; but it would have been a comfort to know that she could also have been eligible to stay at one of the two homes, or use the other available services, if it was needed.
A Mason must be aware of a few other eligibility issues as well. To be eligible for either of the Masonic homes, an individual cannot have more than $2,000 in debt, and a couple must not have more than $3,500 in debt when applying. THIS INCLUDES STUDENT LOANS. Notice I capitalized STUDENT LOANS. I did this for a reason. It is not a prevalent problem right now, but it may be in the future. My age generation was discouraged from taking out STUDENT LOANS to pay for college; not so today. Today, almost every student attending college takes out some type of a STUDENT LOAN. I know because I have four children who have had to deal with this issue. Moreover, the Federal Government has also instituted a new pay scale repayment program, which means a growing number of students will never repay their STUDENT LOANS; but the amount owed will continue to grow because of the interest applied to the loan. As well, there is still some uncertainly about the duration of the amount owed and if that amount would be attached to future social security payments, which is the case today with some seniors. Sadly, some seniors who defaulted on their STUDENT LOANS are having a portion of their Social Security payments seized. Nevertheless, the important point is to have little or no debt before attempting to enter the Masonic Home Program. This issue does not affect my immediate family or me, but I know it will become a growing problem in the coming decades; an issue I will continue to discuss with our Masonic leadership in the future.
There is also a wait time of about 12-18 months before being admitted into the Covina Masonic Home, and 12-24 months for the Union City Home. The difference being the level of care; the Union City Home has many special programs for seniors, while the Covina Masonic home is for independent and assisted living adults only. Although, I was told that the Covina Masonic Home would start construction on a new complex real soon, which will expand senior programming at that location?
Please keep in mind, there are others who have much more information than I can give in this simple blog article. The purpose of this article was to spark your interest to find out more about these services, which are available to all eligible Masons and their family members in the state of California. I purposely left out pertinent details, which you will discover only by calling 1-888-466-3642, or by going to their website pages, Masonic Homes – For Seniors, Masonic Senior Outreach and Masonic Family Outreach.
In conclusion, I am grateful to be just a small part of this incredible Masonic organization. Every time I walk on the grounds of this beautiful home in Covina, I get a wonderful and joyful feeling. As of yet, I have not gone to the Union City Masonic Home, but I understand it is just as beautiful. Please help spread the good word about these services, which are available to eligible Freemasons and their families in California. Surprisingly, most Masons in the state know little about the California Masonic Homes and the Outreach Services available to them, and to the broader Masonic family with the help-line to help answer questions ~/G\~
So Mote It Be!!!
PS: for your enjoyment, here are some more pictures I took on my visit: