MAF Service Advisory - November 23, 2009
Dear friend of the Masonic Angel Fund,
This is a service advisory from Masonic Angel Foundation, Inc. We issue these on occasion when we have learned something that is of interest to those operating subordinate Masonic Angel Funds and to the MAF community at large.
Over the past few weeks here on Cape Cod we have noticed an increase in the number of requests for grocery store gift cards.  We always see a few of these during the autumn but this year the volume is four or five times what we have seen in past years. 
This anomaly was first noticed at the Massachusetts Military Reservation, where we learned that many active duty military families have been disqualified from the WIC public nutrition program due to a change in the way the Commonwealth of Massachusetts computes their income.  We have been told by the military family services officers that food will become a paramount concern in the near future, because the food pantries surrounding the base are severely depleted due to the poor economy.
We next noticed these concerns when working with the region's Head Start programs.  The Foundation office is the vortex for many regional MAF benevolences, such as when Head Start is seeking assistance to provide Thanksgiving to families in the various towns they serve.  Head Start gives us the information for each town and we pass it on to the local Masonic Angel Fund chapter.  In conversations with Head Start we hear the same concerns - food banks are depleted and families are having difficulty purchasing the remainder of what they need.
The last piece of the puzzle fell into place here in Orleans the other day.  We have been helping the Universal Masonic Angel Fund with issuance and delivery of checks while a couple of their trustees recover from surgery.  On Thursday we issued $800 for grocery cards at a single elementary school.  Upon speaking at length with the school nurse, we followed up with some of the local churches that have food pantries as well as a regional human service agency that works with all food pantries in the area.  Once again we heard that the food pantries are stretched far tighter than in previous years.  The people with who we spoke are very concerned about the winter.
Food has never been a high-volume benevolence for most Masonic Angel Funds.  Families in need are traditionally helped by food pantries.  The school professionals come to MAF for their clients' other, non-nutritional needs.  This winter it appears that food may become one of the primary areas where we can assist our children.
Universal Masonic Angel Fund has decided to stop funding "second tier" benevolences such as after school tuition and program fees.  Until they see where the demand is leading, they will fund primarily food, clothing and eyeglasses.  Certainly exceptions can be made but their main focus right now will be on the basics.
We advise that all Masonic Angel Fund chapters reach out to their school contacts before Thanksgiving in order to determine the food situation in your area.  If you are told by someone credible that everything is fine in the food arena, than proceed on with your business as usual.  However, if you learn that the same concerns are cropping up in your community as we have seen here on Cape Cod, we encourage you to adopt a similar "just the basics" position as Universal Masonic Angel Fund.
Please let us know what you find out when you speak with your school contacts so that we can track the situation system-wide.
American Freemasons have been helping their neighbors since 1733.  We have risen to every challenge set before us.  Rest assured that our Masonic Angel Fund volunteers will do their very best to take care of hungry families in the communities they serve.
Regards to all,
Robert W. Fellows
Co-Founder/Board President
Masonic Angel Foundation, Inc.

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