Together we make a profound difference

BEST PRACTICE: Supporting public education

HOW-TO: Boost local schools

Spin your wheels for public schools

Educating members about the Homes application process

Masonic training and education in ‘09

Question of the month




BEST PRACTICE: Supporting public education

Past Master Joe Coppinger has been a driving force behind Moreno Valley Lodge’s middle school speech contest since it was first conceived 26 years ago. He reports on how the contest is organized and the long-term benefits to students. Here’s a summary:

Background: In 1982, the lodge decided it was time to reach out to the community and break down myths about Masonry. We wanted to start with children. Many of us had children in public schools at the time and were proud of Masonry’s role in establishing the system. At the same time, we wanted to entice young people to join Masonic youth orders. Since the youth orders often started out with memory work, we decided to hold a speech contest.

Contest guidelines

  • Requirements: Middle school students give three to five minute speeches on a prepared theme. Judges evaluate text, delivery, and overall effort/effectiveness.
  • Theme: We ask the superintendent to select a new speech theme each year. Past themes include “What is patriotism,” “What does citizenship mean to me,” and “What free education means to me.”
  • Contestants: Students compete within their grade level – sixth, seventh, or eighth. There are several rounds of preliminary contests within the schools, concluding with district finals. There are usually about 18 finalists from the district’s seven middle schools.
  • Awards: All students that make it to the district finals receive special certificates. First-, second-, and third-place winners in each grade receive medallions along with $100, $75, or $50 U.S. Savings Bonds. First-place winners also receive dictionary and thesaurus sets and have their names engraved on traveling trophies, which are placed on display at their schools. We started the traveling trophy in the first year, and it’s very popular with the students – it really dangles an extra apple for them to reach for.
  • Cost: Total program cost is about $800.

Community connections

  • Public relations: We’re named in the newspaper and on local television as the contest sponsor, and we make a point to include the historic background of Masonry’s support of public education.
  • Administration: The program had fallen by the wayside a few years ago. In 2007, we decided to bring it back. Even though we didn’t achieve the same level of participation as previous years, we caught the eye and ear of the new superintendent, who has assured us maximum participation in next year’s contest.
  • Community: We have five judges from the community at the district finals, including school administrators and local law enforcement agents.
  • The family: The contest is a great opportunity for parents and teachers to work one-on-one with students. Students are motivated to put in time at home writing and memorizing speeches.
  • The lodge: There’s a strong showing of lodge members at the finals: more than 20 usually attend. (At stated meetings, the draw is about 30.) I do scorekeeping and another member does the timing.

CHALLENGE: Today’s educators are faced with packed curriculums, and some are reluctant to squeeze in another program. At the high school level, we’ve stepped aside out of respect for students’ overbooked schedules. In the younger grades, though, the key is to take as much work out of it for the teachers as possible.

Long-term benefits

  • The program initiates friendly competition between the students. They have a lot to shoot for: savings bonds, traveling trophy, and their names in the paper.
  • We’ve tracked the progress of some of the students, and it’s a great success story. A student who won the speech contest in both seventh and eighth grade is now teaching middle school in the same district.

Above and beyond
In addition to the middle school speech contest, we sponsor a poster contest for kindergarten through fifth grade. The idea is to plant the seed early, then reinforce it with the middle school speech contest so kids start thinking about DeMolay, Job’s Daughters, and Rainbow for Girls. Once they approach the youth orders, we can teach them more tenets of Masonry.


Contact: Joe Coppinger at for a Speech Contest packet, which includes a program overview and template forms for judging, timekeeping, scorekeeping, and U.S. Savings Bond requests.

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HOW-TO: Boost local schools

Besides offering a glimpse of the work California Masons are doing in support of public education, this how-to list will help you evaluate how your lodge can be more active with local schools. Consider which activities your lodge can tackle for Public Schools Month, and which might become ongoing programs.

Provide school supplies

  • Donate money for a teacher's “wish list” for classroom supplies
  • Give students backpacks filled with supplies at the beginning of the school year
  • Distribute dictionaries to students
  • Supply U.S. Constitution booklets for classrooms (middle school and above)
  • Donate money to buy instruments and supplies for the school’s music program

Oakland Durant Rockridge Lodge No. 188: We set up an account at a local music store for instructors from three elementary schools and one middle school to purchase whatever’s most needed for their music programs.

Sponsor contests

  • Essay competition
  • Poster contest
  • Speech contest
  • Writing contest
  • Science fair
  • U.S. Constitution tournament

Menifee Valley Lodge No. 289: For the past six years, our lodge has held a U.S. Constitution tournament. Teams of students from the town’s high schools are quizzed on how sections of the Constitution refer to parts of our government.

Support school programs

  • Donate money to fund school field trips to the state capitol
  • Purchase advertising space in school yearbooks
  • Fund an after-school program

Bicentennial Daylight Lodge No. 830: We sponsor a class each year at Whitney Elementary School. The school doesn’t have any room in the budget for intramural sports, so we pay to sponsor an after-school athletics program for the class. It promotes good grades, because students have to qualify academically to participate.

La Fayette Lodge No. 126: We coordinate and fund an annual decision-making program at three elementary schools. An IMAX-type movie, produced by a local group of teachers, child psychologists, and professional writers and cinematographers, encourages positive behavior and healthy decision-making.

Award excellence

  • Fund college scholarships
  • Present U.S. Savings Bonds to outstanding students each year
  • Work with a sponsored school’s principal or school district leaders to select and honor a Teacher of the Year
  • Recognize student leaders at a lodge dinner for families
  • Establish a bike reward program

Yount Lodge No. 12: We donate and present bicycles to winners of a drawing at a local school. To qualify, students must read for at least 30 minutes every day of the school year, including holidays and weekends. The school is mostly populated by Spanish-speaking children, and their English scores have increased steadily since implementing the program.


  • Tutor students or read to young children after school
  • Be a classroom aide
  • Help in a school computer lab or library
  • Participate in Principal for a Day program
  • Provide lodge space for special student-parent meetings, such as ESL classes
Have we forgotten something? Please e-mail additional suggestions to with How-To: Boost local schools in the subject line.


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Spin your wheels for public schools

San Benito Lodge No. 211 in Hollister started its bike program in 2001. Now in its eighth year, the program presented 17 bikes to local fourth and fifth graders in 2008, and inspired nearby Santa Cruz-San Lorenzo Valley Lodge No. 38 to establish its own program. Here are their tried-and-true tips:

First things first

  • Contact the superintendent for initial approval
  • Contact all public schools by letter and follow-up phone call
  • Select grade level(s)
  • Fundraise
    San Benito Lodge provided space on its dues notices for bike program donations.

Rules and guidelines

  • Decide if reward is for perfect attendance, scholastic excellence, good reading habits, leadership, effort, or something else
    San Benito Lodge focused on perfect attendance as a way to reward the average student for consistent effort at school.
  • Determine if the winners will be selected by teachers, principals, or a drawing from qualified students. Remember to set a rule that winning students maintain grade averages of at least C or above and exhibit good behavior
  • Include helmet and bike lock with bike

Public partners

  • Partner with concordant bodies
    Athena Chapter No. 46, Order of the Eastern Star has been an active partner with San Benito Lodge’s program.
  • Purchase bikes from a locally-owned store, if possible, and talk to the store about providing bike and helmet fittings
  • Use the opportunity to ask schools about allowing Masonic youth orders to post flyersInvite local community leaders, law enforcement officers, and school administrators to the awards presentation


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Educating members about the Homes application process

Remember, there is an application process for the Masonic Homes at Union City and Covina. If any of your members are considering applying for admission to one of the Homes, encourage them to make a timely decision and start the application process early, before their situation or health becomes unstable. Remind your members of the three steps in the application process:

  1. Call 888/466-3642 to start the application process.
  2. The Home will send a financial summary for the applicant or applicant’s family to complete and a physician report to be completed by the applicant’s doctor.
  3. After submitting the completed financial and physician’s reports, the applicant will be sent an application packet and placed on the waiting list. There is always a waiting period of at least a year.


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Masonic training and education in '09


Wardens' Retreats
Work with fellow elected leaders to develop your leadership skills and plan how you’ll implement your lodge goals.

2009 Workshop Schedule
Junior Wardens
April 3-5, San Ramon
April 24-26, Ontario

Senior Wardens
May 15-17, San Ramon
May 29-31, Ontario


Lodge Management Certification Program
Gain the tools and training you need to effectively manage your lodge. Each course is presented in an intensive one-day workshop. Four of the courses are also available online*.


2009 Locations and Dates

  • June 6: Pasadena area
  • June 13: San Diego area
  • June 20: Fresno/Visalia area
  • June 27: Sacramento area
  • July 11: San Francisco area
  • July 18: Chico area



To download registration forms for all events or enroll in the Lodge Management Certification Program online courses*, visit and select Leadership Development from the Member Center pull-down menu.


California Masonic Symposium

The Ninth Annual California Masonic Symposium, “Applying Masonry in Contemporary Society,” will be held Saturday, May 2 at the University of California, Los Angeles. This year’s event is open to Masons and the public at no charge.

In lectures, papers, and panel discussions, the 2009 Symposium will examine how Masonic principles shaped the development of western democracies and where, in today’s deeply divided society, those principles may be more necessary than ever. The program includes talks by Henry Wilson Coil Lecturer Dr. Margaret C. Jacob, Past Grand Secretary John L. Cooper III, and Past Grand Master R. Stephen Doan.

Register now on by clicking on the Symposium button (to the right of Current News), or by selecting Masonic Education from the Member Center pull-down menu.

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Question of the month

Last month we asked if your lodge has a widow outreach program. Of the 99 that responded:

75% - yes

Of the ‘yes’ responses, lodges contacted
their widows:
19% - once per year
57% - two to four times per year
24% - more than four times per year

25% - no

Of the ‘no’ responses:
56% - had program in the past


Here’s your next question.


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Please email questions to

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p: (415) 776-7000