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Partnership Potential
M.W. Garry D. Odom, 33°
Grand Master of Oklahoma
PO Box 1019, 102 S. Broad Guthrie, Oklahoma 73044-1019

In Oklahoma, our experiences with community associations, such as the Salvation Army, has taught us that, while it is important for Masons to have projects we do alone, it is also important to partner with other groups.

Across America, Masons are discovering that forming partnerships with other organizations is a powerful way of letting the public know who we are. Over the last few years in Oklahoma, local Lodges, the Grand Lodge, and the Scottish Rite Valleys have sought out and formed community partnerships. Local Lodges have partnered with local organizations to meet such needs as equipment for Volunteer Fire Departments and funding for childcare centers. The Scottish Rite in Oklahoma partners with the Payne Education Foundation to provide training for public school teachers in new reading techniques. The Grand Lodge also partners with Prevent Blindness Oklahoma to provide vision screenings for school children and senior citizens across the state, and with the Oklahoma State Department of Education in support of the State Teacher of the Year Program and the State Superintendentís Awards for Arts Excellence, among many others.

Oklahoma Masons, along with all our citizens, received an unforgettable lesson in the importance and power of partnerships when the Murrah Federal Building was bombed. A vast network of instantly created partnerships made relief efforts possible which no organization could have done alone.

This year we are working with a new partnership -- one which promises to provide many rewards in public relations and good will, and which can be done by any Blue Lodge or Scottish Rite Valley. We are partnering with the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army is this nationís most popular charitable organization. Its religious and charitable nature meshes well with Masonryís ideals, structure, and goals. Almost all of us are familiar with the Salvation Armyís work in our larger cities, including disaster relief, food distribution, and thrift store operations. Yet, the Salvation Army has a deeper, more personal operation in our less populated areas.

Although not many people know of them, local Salvation Army Service Units exist in rural communities across America. These groups render emergency relief to the needy, both transient and local, and they are required to be self-supporting. These associations are run entirely by local people to meet local needs.

Almost all Service Units need volunteer help for special projects and financial support, and their needs are pressing. Generally, they provide emergency aid in such areas as lodging, transportation, food, medicine, rent, and utilities. These units are also on the front line when a natural disaster strikes locally. The local committee decides which applicants receive help and how much help is given. There are never enough resources to meet the needs. It isnít easy to say to a mother with hungry children, ďIím sorry, we donít have the funds left to help.Ē

Local Blue Lodges or Scottish Rite organizations can partner with these Service Units. We can provide volunteers to help ring bells during the Christmas Season and to assist with other fund-raising activities. Lodges can donate funds directly to the Service Units. We can volunteer to supply manpower for various projects in the community. When we do so, Masons are seen to be there, working visibly to help make life better for local citizens.
It is, in many ways, a natural partnership.

Our experience has taught us that it is important for Freemasons to have projects we do alone. These are beautifully illustrated in the revised edition of Masonic Philanthropies: A Tradition of Caring. But, it is also important to partner with other groups. The most violent arguments of anti-Masons crumble when the person to whom they are speaking says: ďI know the Masons -- they helped me.Ē By helping our partners, we help ourselves. We do well by doing good.

My contact person in Oklahoma is Major Steve Lanier. He can be reached at 405-840-0735. Iím sure he would be glad to help you make a contact in your area.
Itís a partnership potential worth exploring.