Masonic Havens

Masonic Havens Limited

Most Worshipful Grand Master, Right Worshipful Brethren, Very Worshipful Brethren, Worshipful Brethren and Brethren. It is two years since I had the privilege of addressing Grand Lodge at the Autumn meeting when the Chairman of each of the Benevolent Institutions on a rota basis has the opportunity to make a brief statement on the progress of the Fund.

The Brethren will recall that Masonic Havens Limited bought a 42 bed, Nursing Horne in Virginia Co. Cavan in 1999 which we have been operating successfully ever since both socially and financially as demonstrated in. the annual accounts.

This Home stands on some 22 acres overlooking Lout Ramor and its acquisition has proved to be the vital step in the implementation of the concept of 'Continuity of Care' when looking after elderly people. What this means in practice is that care for the elderly should integrate both sheltered housing and ultimately full nursing care. As we grow older, cutting the grass, painting and decorating, and all those jobs around the house can become a real burden and a move to sheltered housing is recognized as increasingly attractive. It has been our observation in operating Carsick Manor in Monkstown Co. Dublin that the elderly active person on being admitted into sheltered housing is transformed when relieved of the worry and burden. of trying to look after a house on their own and is almost given a new lease of life.

Despite the fact that their quality of life is improved and they can maintain their independence with dignity, nevertheless the time does come when they can no longer care for themselves and nursing care which is not provided in sheltered housing becomes essential. So at a time when they are most vulnerable, the resident or the family must start to find a suitable nursing home. It has therefore become a principle in our care for the elderly that once a person enters a home for the active elderly run by Masonic Havens then if or when their health deteriorates they can without distress or disruption move on to full tine nursing and remain under our care.

When MHL bought St. Joseph's Nursing Home in Virginia we were presented with the opportunity and the challenge to put into practice the Continuity of Care concept and build a sheltered housing community for the active elderly in the grounds of the nursing home.

Negotiations with the Department of the Environment to obtain a grant to build such a facility and Cavan Co. Council to get Planning Approval began back in 2000 but it was not until 4th April 2002 that our Grand Master Most Worshipful Brother Eric Waller turned the first sod, to signal the start of the Project. In June of this year MHL took possession of the 26 new two bedroom bungalows and the Communal Centre in what we now call St. Johns Close.

An Operations Committee made up mostly of local brethren in the Province of Meath was formed and invitations circulated to the active elderly in the local community to apply for accommodation. Open Days were held in the months of July, August and September to which all interested parties were invited to inspect the completed bungalows. Interviews are being held to identify and select prospective residents and these will continue until all the dwellings are occupied.

The bulk of the cost of building St. Johns Close has been provided by the Government through the Department of the Environment but the financial shortfall will be the responsibility of MHL and fund raising to achieve this will begin this year, One condition of the grant by the State is that MHL must matke available 19 of the 26 bungalows to persons who qualify to be on the Local Authority housing list. Such people depending on their means may qualify for a housing allowance toward the weekly rent payable by each resident. The selection of the residents for the remaining 7 bungalows is at the total discretion of MHL.

When fully occupied we anticipate that St. Johns will be a community of 40 or 50 persons and it is planned that the Operations Committee through a resident Warden will operate and maintain the development. The Communal Hall is ideally suited for recreational use not only by the residents but also by the wider community. We understand that the Province of Meath is planning to hold a Provincial meeting in the Hall early in the year 2004 and that possibly a. Past Masters Lodge may be constituted there.

The nursing home will be run independently of St. Johns but inevitably over the years informal links between the two will be formed so that any move by a St. Johns resident to the nursing home will be seamless and merely a part of Continuity of Care in practice.

The operation of St. Johns and St. Josephs is, we consider, a clear demonstration of Freemasonry in action taking its place as a part of Society and no longer apart from Society. Our Masonic forebears set high standards for the community in their tune when they established the Girls and Boys schools when orphans were at risk. Today when society at large seems to be even less caring than ever about our old folk, is there a better opportunity for Masonic Benevolence than to make our contribution to resolving the problem?.

Arthur Pollock

Chairman - Masonic Havens Limited

October 2003