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BEST PRACTICE: Remembering our sweethearts

HOW-TO: Improve widow outreach

Locating the lost

Resources to help you reach out

Summer school

Question of the month




BEST PRACTICE: Remembering our sweethearts

Even when they need help, Masonic widows don’t always feel comfortable contacting the lodge. Liberty Lodge No. 299 in Santa Clara takes extra steps to ensure its sweethearts know they’re part of the fraternal family. Kenneth G. Nagel, deputy grand master and Liberty Lodge’s assistant secretary, explains how:

Background: Liberty Lodge has 226 members and about 60 widows. We’ve made it a lodge priority to remember our sweethearts. Traditionally the lodge has done outreach with holiday cards, invitations to lodge events, and an annual sweetheart dinner. Recently we've expanded the Sweetheart Program into a mini Masonic Outreach Services.

Staying in touch

  • Birthdays: We send a card from the lodge reminding them that we’re around and we’re thinking of them.
  • Holidays: At Christmas we give our sweethearts a box of candy with a note from the master. Members hand-deliver the gifts to local sweethearts and stay to visit. They’ll share memories of the husband being in lodge.
  • Valentine’s Day: Every year around Valentine’s Day, we have our Sweethearts Dinner. We host dinner and honor each widow with a carnation or a rose.

Integrating with the lodge

  • Phone Committee: Six to eight of our most active sweethearts formed a Phone Committee, which they use to alert the membership about all lodge events, from funerals to messages from the master. It’s given our sweethearts a role within the lodge, and they’ve done a marvelous job.


    Repeat it with your lodge: It only takes a handful of ladies who have a desire to help and a secretary who can supply them with a lodge roster and phone numbers.

TIP: Meet with your lodge sweethearts and see if they’d like to be more involved. The Phone Committee started when last year’s master, Jack Harris, met with lodge sweethearts. They asked how they could help the lodge, and off the top of his head, Harris came up with the Phone Committee.

Imitating MOS
In the past few years we've added another level of outreach. As vice president of the Masonic Homes Board of Trustees for a number of years, I saw what we do in Masonic Outreach Services. It’s not all dollars – it’s a matter of reaching out. For our widows and even some of our senior men, it’s about staying in touch, providing information, or lending a hand around their houses. I realized that our lodge could do the same thing. We created our own version of Masonic Outreach Services.

  • Dedicated attention: We assigned a lodge member to each of our 30 local sweethearts. Those 30 members act as conduits from the lodge to the widow.
  • Frequent contact: The members contact their widows at least quarterly to check in and invite them to lodge. Many aim for monthly contact.
  • Helping hands: If our widows need any help – someone to mow their lawn or provide a ride – they have someone to call. They know they’re connected to the lodge.

Moving forward

  • Expanding: Our next step is expanding outreach to widows who aren’t local: match them with members who live in their area, or ask for help from other lodges that are located closer by. The point is for every sweetheart to have a local individual that she feels comfortable contacting.


  • Many lodge members are involved – 30 in the one-on-one program, and a number with the annual dinner and holiday visits. They take pride in looking out for our brothers’ widows.
  • Through the Phone Committee, our sweethearts talk to the other widows and invite them to events. The committee helps other widows understand that they’re not a fifth wheel – they’re part of the lodge family.
  • One of the biggest problems that we’ve seen is simply loneliness. Thanks to our program, our sweethearts know that they always have someone they can call.

Everything we do can be replicated in any lodge in the state. It’s a matter of keeping in touch throughout the year and reminding sweethearts that we care about them and want them to be involved.

Contact: Thomas Bergevin, secretary, at

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HOW-TO: Improve widow outreach

To ensure that your widows feel welcome in the lodge and have the support they need, it’s important to stay in touch year-round. If your lodge has just one or two widow outreach events during the year, consider expanding your Sweetheart Program with some of these suggestions.

You’ve got mail

  • Send birthday and holiday cards annually.
  • At least once a year – especially around the holidays – send a personalized note from the master.
  • Make sure widows receive the lodge Trestleboard.
  • Check that widows still receive California Freemason magazine.
    • TIP: When entering a member’s death date in iMember, be sure to create a linked widow record for the spouse. This will ensure that widows continue to receive Grand Lodge communications.

Dedicated committees

  • Widows Committee: Establish a committee dedicated to widow outreach.

    The Widows Committee for Reseda Lodge No. 666 in Van Nuys announces sweetheart birthdays at the lodge’s stated meeting and coordinates volunteers to personally deliver a card and gift to local sweethearts. Members use the visit to check in on sweethearts’ financial, health, and general well-being, which they report back to the committee.
  • Phone Committee: Encourage widows to get involved with the lodge by forming their own committee.

    The sweethearts of Liberty Lodge No. 299 formed a Phone Committee last year, and now contact all members and widows before lodge events. The committee increases attendance at events, reaches out to inactive members and sweethearts, and gives sweethearts an important role in the lodge.

Special events

  • Sweethearts night: At least once a year, host a dinner or meal in honor of your lodge sweethearts. Make sure you assign members to call and invite widows personally, and coordinate rides to and from the event. Present sweethearts with flowers or another token of affection.
  • Lodge events: Any time the lodge is hosting an event that is open to families or the public, including monthly dinners, put someone in charge of personally inviting sweethearts and coordinating rides.
  • Master meeting: At the beginning of his term, the lodge master should meet with sweethearts to introduce himself. This is a great time to suggest a Phone Committee or another way for sweethearts to become involved.

Stay in touch

  • Individual attention: Assign a member to each sweetheart. Aim for a phone call or visit at least quarterly, and preferably once a month.
  • Handyman service: Create a taskforce of lodge members who are willing to help on handyman projects. Publicize the service to widows and older members.
  • Youth orders: Involve your lodge’s youth orders in planning events or making cards for sweethearts.
  • Lunch bunch: Encourage members’ ladies and lodge sweethearts to meet for lunch monthly.
Have we forgotten something? Please e-mail additional suggestions to with How-To: Improve widow outreach in the subject line.

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Locating the lost

Family reunion
At the 2008 Grand Lodge Installation, Grand Master Larry Adamson announced an initiative to reconnect with lost members and widows. As part of that initiative, a new staff person has been added to the Grand Lodge Member Services team, dedicated to the ongoing search for lost members and widows.

702 found
Member Services Representative Sara Cannon uses a variety of search engines, including and the Social Security death index, to find valid contact information for the nearly 4,000 members listed as bad addresses. She then places outreach phone calls to reconnect lost members and widows with their lodges, and provides information about Masonic Outreach Services for those in need of support.

Thanks to Cannon’s work with Grand Lodge, 702 lost members and widows have been found since November.

The lodge’s role
Once Cannon identifies a lost member or widow, she updates the lodge’s iMember database, which automatically generates an e-mail notification to the lodge secretary. Lodges can then take over with their own outreach programs.

Tips for staying up-to-date

  • Any time a lodge member mentions or is accompanied by a spouse, take the opportunity to obtain the spouse’s information and enter it in iMember.
  • When entering a member’s death date in iMember, create a linked widow record for the spouse.
  • If your lodge has not yet transitioned to iMember and still sends monthly activity reports to Grand Lodge, include widow information when listing deceased members.
  • If your lodge uses a separate widow roster, check it against iMember. If there are discrepancies, send your list to Member Services so that Grand Lodge can update its roster to match.


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Resources to help you reach out

Updated materials for new widows and widowers are now available from Grand Lodge.

Our Tribute of Affection, which includes full text of a traditional Masonic funeral, is a keepsake presented to a new widow at her spouse’s funeral or shortly following his death. It may be purchased for $4 per booklet.

A Guide for Widows and Widowers After the Death of a Spouse lists basic actions that a widow or widower must take following the loss of a spouse, from notifying the Social Security Administration to contacting insurance companies. It is included with Our Tribute of Affection at no additional cost, or may be ordered separately at no charge.

These materials come enclosed in an envelope for mailing or presentation in person. Contact the Grand Lodge Supply Department at 415/292-9131 to place your order.

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Summer school


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, held in six cities this summer. 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 a registration form or enroll in a Lodge Management Certification Program online course*, visit and select Leadership Development from the Member Center pull-down menu.

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Question of the month

Last month we asked how most of your candidates find out about your lodge. Of the 61 that responded:

59% - Masonic friend
24% - lodge Web site
9% - Masonic relative
5% - community events
3% -



Here’s your next question.


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