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"Angel Mail" Update - January 26, 2010

"What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us;  what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal." - Albert Pike

Both Benevolence Builder Grant Series Continue

Both current Benevolence Builder Grant (BBG) series continue.  The "St. Andrew BBG" series is for Masonic Angel Fund's in Massachusetts and offers 50% replenishment of benevolences with a limit of $1,000 per MAF chapter.  The "Founders' Fund BBG" series is for MAF's outside Massachusetts that belong to our group exemption.  It also provides 50% replenishment up to a limit of $1,000.

Each grant series is slated to run through January but will conclude early if the allocated funds have been expended.  Do not hold your benevolence submissions.  Submit them immediately via email or telephone to ensure that your grant is funded.  Both grant series conclude on January 31, 2010.

As always, we express our sincerest thanks to our Brethren in The Lodge of St. Andrew for their continued generosity to Massachusetts' Masonic Angel Funds and to the friends and family of John Alden Sherman for establishing the Founders' Fund.

Benevolence Stories
Every once in a while we devote an issue entirely to the benevolence stories from a single Masonic Angel Fund.  We are pleased to feature once again material from the semi-annual report of the Eau Claire Area Masonic Angel Fund in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  This MAF was featured for a number of reasons that we will explore following a few of their benevolence stories.
10/9/2009 - Purchased a mattress ($153) for a second grade girl who kept becoming re-infested with lice due to a contaminated mattress that could not be de-loused.
10/1/2009 - Funded both lunch and "milk money" (total of $120.75) for two kindergarten students who had not yet qualified for free/reduced lunch.
10/9/2009 - Issued a check for $250 to cover necessities for a family where grandparents were raising their two grandchildren and had lost everything in a house fire.  Prior to the fire the grandfather had suffered a heard attack.  Grandma was burned in the fire. 
10/10/2009 - Provided funding for a semester's worth of mid-day milk breaks ($25) for a first grader.
10/15/2009 - Eyeglasses for a fourth grade boy at a cost of $129.
10/20/2009 - $83.28 to purchase "basics" for a family of four children.
10/23/2009 - Arranged to acquire laundry equipment for a family where the little boy was coming to school in soiled, smelly clothing.  Sourced, delivered and installed at a cost of $100.
10/30/2009 - Shoes for two little boys at a total cost of $37.96.
11/13/2009 - Funded "milk breaks" for two boys for the balance of the school year at a total cost of $72.
11/21/2009 - Purchased an air purifier ($105.47) for a family with an asthmatic child.
12/11/2009 - Toys for multiple Christmas gifts at a cost of $250.
12/15/2009 - Reimbursed a school counselor who had purchased necessities ($100) for a family with a seriously ill child.
12/15/2009 - Covered a $50 co-pay for a prescription.
12/15/2009 - Purchased winter clothing for four children at a total cost of $250.33.
The benevolences listed here represent a total of $1726.79.  They came from 15 benevolence report forms and affected about 35 children. 
Why did we choose to feature benevolences from Eau Claire's report?
We enjoy reading the reports from Eau Claire Area MAF because they always represent the core of what we try to do with the Masonic Angel Fund.  Eau Claire's benevolences are what we in the Foundation refer to as "bread-and-butter benevolences."  Food, clothing, fire assistance, eyeglasses, medical items - these benevolences all fulfilled very basic, urgent needs.
When John Sherman and I first conceived the Masonic Angel Fund program, these are exactly the type of benevolences that were on our mind.  That week John had just finished a session of Masonic Child ID filmings in our local schools.  His head was full of stories where he had seen kids with shoes that didn't fit, patched-up eyeglasses or a coat that was far too small.  The first description of the Masonic Angel Fund - and it's still in all of our literature - included the words "to provide modest assistance to children in need".
The work of the Eau Claire Area Masonic Angel Fund exemplifies the term "modest assistance".  They provide exactly the right amount of help at exactly the time when that assistance is crucial in the life of a child.
Most Masonic Angel Funds start out doing these kinds of benevolences.  Indeed, many MAF's limit themselves to "bread-and-butter benevolences" for their entire life span. 
Being Freemasons, many of us like to set the bar a little higher.  Some of our Masonic Angel Funds increase the scope of the benevolences they cover as they grow their fundraising prowess.  As their funding capabilities grow, many MAF's decide to take on more ambitious benevolences. 
This is usually a fine thing to do if you are fully covering all of the "bread-and-butter" benevolence requests in all of your schools.  In a small community like the one where we founded the Masonic Angel Fund this is fairly simple.  We have four elementary schools, one middle school and one high school and a reasonably finite student population. 
On the other hand, consider a community like Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  Eau Claire has a population of over 60,000 people and has about 71 schools.  In a city like this, a Masonic Angel Fund ought to do just what this one has done - cover basic needs for as many kids in as many schools as funding permits.  If your funding capacity grows, it would follow that you would want to take on additional schools - not provide for larger benevolences in a smaller number of schools.
We have seen this practice occur in many other school districts.  The Paul Revere Masonic Angel Fund in Brockton, Massachusetts is another good example.  MAF trustee Bruce K. Pratt and his colleagues planned a very deliberate path through their city, one school at a time.  As they acquired more sources of money, the added more schools.
In these challenging times of the "Great Recession", many Masonic Angel Funds are limiting themselves to the basics.  If yours is one in that situation, please remember that "the basics" is why we started the Masonic Angel Fund "to provide modest assistance to children in need who do not fit the criteria for traditional social service programs."
As we read the semi-annual reports from our chapters - and we do read every word of every report - we see some Masonic Angel Funds "reaching for the stars" with benevolences to fund wheelchair purchases and other benevolences that were "pie in the sky" back in the early days of the program.  We applaud these programs for going the extra mile.  However, we do not in any way believe that this should influence other chapters to change the way they choose to serve their communities.
A successful Masonic Angel Fund is a busy Masonic Angel Fund.  If your program is funding plenty of "bread-and-butter" benevolences every semester and you're happy with that, then we're perfectly happy with you. 
If your program is funding all of those "basics", is covering every school in your community and still has money left over - then by all means feel free to raise the bar on the kinds of benevolences you consider.  As long as you stay within the bounds of The Ten Standards we applaud you in that decision.
On the other hand, if your program is sitting on a lot of money and you haven't done any benevolences in the past six months, shame on you!  Please don't even think of saying "there's no need" at a time like this!  Get out into your schools and do better with your outreach program.  We have an comprehensive article on outreach at
Leveraging the 501(c)(3) Group Exemption
The Eau Claire Area Masonic Angel Fund is a member of the MAF group exemption.  Consequently, they hold 501(c)(3) status in their own right.  Remember the "laundry benevolence" where a washer/dryer was requested?  In a case like this, when a business sells a product at something less than fair market value - and when's the last time you could purchase a dryer for $100? - the donor can take a deduction of the difference between the price paid and the fair market value of the donated item.
We saw another good example of this years ago when Filene's Basement sold several winter coats and snow suits to our partners in the USO for a little less than $5 each.  Filene's Basement had retailed those items at over $100 with a likely fair market value in the $80 range.  When they sold the coats to us for $5, they likely claimed an in-kind donation of $75 per item.
If you are a member of the group exemption, remember these cases when you're working with a store to purchase something for a benevolence.  Leveraging our 501(c)(3) status can often get you a lot more for the kids for a lot less money.
When you do receive an in-kind donation or deep discount like this, remember that we do NOT list the fair market value in the acknowledgement letter but just describe the items donated or sold at a deep discount.  You can include tag descriptions or store SKU numbers to help the donor tie it back to their inventory but never assign a fair market value to the items.  We are not retail experts, art experts, auto appraisers or any other form of expert.  It is incumbent upon the donor to declare the FMV on their taxes and then be prepared to defend it before the IRS if audited.
Semi-Annual Reports for the Fall Semester Due January 31st
Semi-annual report packets will be mailed out sometime in December. The reports are exactly the same as they were last semester. Please remember that the reports for July 1, 2009 to December 31, 2009 are due at the Foundation's office by January 31, 2010. In addition to the mailed packet, the forms will be posted on our web site for download as soon as they are published.  Note that group exemption members were notified in September that there are now late fees charged to those members that do not file their reports by the deadline.  The forms are available for download on our web site.

Military Benevolence Program
A reminder, if you have any children of military personnel who are deployed or were deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan a generous private foundation patron has made a fund available to help local Masonic Angel Funds who are providing assistance to children of these brave men and women. Contact the Foundation if you have a benevolence request that might qualify for 100% reimbursement under this program.

Share Your News!

Do you have benevolence stories you would like to share with the rest of the MAF on-line community? If so, please email them to and we will pass them along to your colleagues.

Regards to all,
Robert W. Fellows, Co-Founder/Board President
Masonic Angel Foundation, Inc.