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NEPACS | Durham Freemasons

Masonic Charitable Foundation

Disadvantaged children coping with a parent in prison will get help and support thanks to Durham Freemasons

More than 200 local children and young people with a parent in prison will be given the support they need to overcome social stigma, loneliness and mental health problems, thanks to a grant of £60,000 from Durham Freemasons to the North East Prison After Care Society (NEPACS).

The project, named Bee Yourself, will deliver a package of practical and emotional support for young people in the northeast of England, aged 4-17. These are disadvantaged young people, mostly from households in receipt of free-school meals, located in deprived wards and experiencing significant financial and emotional hardship.

Many of these young people do not receive specific help and often ‘go under the radar’ when their parent goes into custody. They are far more likely than their peers to experience social isolation, loneliness and mental health issues. An estimated 30 per cent of children impacted by parental imprisonment experience significant mental health problems, compared to 10 per cent of the wider youth population.

Similarly, children of prisoners are more likely to take unauthorised school absences than their peers. This has an inevitable effect on their overall educational attainment and passes on disadvantages to the next generation.

Children of prisoners are also at far greater risk of engaging in criminal behaviour. Statistics show that 54 per cent of people entering prison have at least one child under 18 and 312,000 children are affected by parental imprisonment each year. 71 per cent of boys who experience a parent in prison end up in trouble with the police themselves and 66 per cent will go on to offend.

NEPACS’ existing, more informal Young People’s services deliver impressive results: 80 per cent have reported a reduction in isolation; 89 per cent of young people stating they had formed new lasting friendships; 90 per cent stating they had no intention of involving themselves in criminal behaviour in the future; 90 per cent have indicated an improvement in their ‘state of happiness’ and 75 per cent have since reported a significant improvement in self-esteem and confidence.

The grant from Durham Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

Emma Price from NEPACS, said:

“We’re very grateful to Durham Freemasons for their generous grant which will allow us to help hundreds of children and young people who are experiencing mental health issues, loneliness and social isolation following the imprisonment of a parent. Helping them to overcome these issues will be a huge benefit to them, their families and to the community in general.”

John Paul Thompson Head of the Durham Freemasons, said:

“I’m very pleased we’ve been able to support NEPACS with their excellent programme to support children who are struggling after a parent has been sent to prison. One especially alarming statistic is that two thirds of the sons of prisoners end up in trouble with the police themselves. Helping them to avoid involvement in crime and take advantage of their education can transform their lives.”

The photos show Emma Price and Abdul Amin of NEPACS with John Thompson and Durham Freemasons representatives.


NEPACS is a north east charity which celebrated its 140th birthday in 2022. The charity supports the wellbeing of individuals and families who’ve been impacted by contact with the criminal justice system.

They provide practical and emotional support to all members of the family who suffer the ‘hidden sentence’ of a loved one’s imprisonment. We also directly support offenders to reduce reoffending.

NEPACS work at all stages of the criminal justice system, predominantly in deprived communities with people who suffer stigma, social disadvantage and economic hardship. Key to this is support for the children of offenders, who experience isolation, disrupted education, mental health issues and who are statistically more likely than peers to engage in crime.

For further information about the Masonic Charitable Foundation, please contact Guy Roberts, Press Officer (  |0203 146 3311)

About the Masonic Charitable Foundation

The Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) is one of the largest grant-making charities in the country. Funded entirely through the generosity of Freemasons and their families, the MCF awards millions of pounds each year to local and national charities that help vulnerable people, advance medical research and provide opportunities for young people. The MCF also helps to fund vital services such as hospices and air ambulances and regularly contributes to worldwide appeals for disaster relief.  In total, MCF support helps to improve the lives of thousands of people every year in England, Wales and internationally. As well as providing grants to charities, the MCF supports Freemasons and their families with a financial, health or family need. Visit

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Feed Bellies not Bins | Durham Freemasons

The Provincial Grand Master, John Thompson, led a full Team visit to Corinthian Lodge in Shildon on Tuesday 23 rd May. The Lodge room was full, with over 75 brethren in attendance to witness Gavin North receiving his 2 nd Degree in an excellent ceremony performed by the officers of the Lodge.

The 3-course meal served (photos included) at the festive board was enjoyed by all present, and only afterwards were they informed that the food they ate was 100% rescued by and donated by “Shildon Alive”, who had in the recent past received a donation from Durham Benevolence, of £1,000.00 match funded by the MCF.

The Project Manager of Shildon Alive, Paula Nelson, who had attended a benevolence meeting last year, and spoke passionately on the subject of “Feed bellies, not bins” was present at the festive board accompanied by Tracy Chapell, the Food Co-Ordinator. Both speakers enlightened everyone as to the millions of pounds worth of food, which would end up in landfills, although perfectly edible, which was rescued by the likes of Shildon Alive, who used the food to benefit the local community where it was needed.

The brethren present were asked to make a donation, suggested at £10 per head, in lieu of payment for the meal provided. A super raffle was also held and when both totals were added to the collection tray from the Lodge room, a magnificent sum of £1440.00 was donated to Durham Benevolence, to then be presented to Shildon Alive, gratefully accepted by Chairman John Watts. John in his reply thanked everyone for their generosity, and by resounding acclaim, all those present hoped Durham Benevolence would increase the £1,440.00 to £2,000.00 as an additional grant.

In his concluding remarks, John gave huge praise to Stan Hunter. the Benevolence Representative of Corinthian Lodge, for all of his efforts in arranging the meeting to take place.

#strongertogether  #durhamfreemasons  #oneorganisation

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Cadet NASA Visit | Durham Freemasons

2505 (Bishop Auckland) Squadron consisting of 41 cadets and 7 volunteers staff was formed 59 years ago to provide a community-based squadron (then called the Air Training Corps) for young people across Southwest Durham.

The squadron is part of a UK-wide force of more than 30,000 young people aged between 12 and 20 years. Their aim is to promote and encourage a practical interest in aviation, providing training which is useful in service and civilian life while encouraging a spirit of adventure, leadership, and good citizenship.

Flt Lt Ian Pepper the Officer Commanding and Flt Sergeant Caroline Hodgson have come up with an inspirational educational idea for the squadron to learn about the application of (STEM) Science, Technology, Engineering and Math’s in space exploration. The training includes certified courses, guest speakers and external trips. This culminates when six cadets and three staff are to travel in October 2023 to the USA to continue exploring flight and space including a visit to NASA to partake in training as astronauts. On their return, they will share their experiences on the expedition with a presentation to the squadron and parents

Funds to pay for this fantastic opportunity have been raised by many means and the cadets with their parents backing have worked hard to reach their target, a huge achievement on its own

Durham Freemason and Chair of the squadron Royston Smart advised the squadron Officer Commanding, Ian to apply to the Freemasons of Durham for a Community Support Grant and this has resulted with a visit from freemason Stan Hunter joining Royston in presenting a well-earned certificate from the Benevolent Committee of the Durham Freemasons.  This accompanies a grant of £1,000 awarded and this resulted in a huge cheer from the squadron.

Stan and Royston were given a tour of the squadron’s operating Centre where Stan had a crash course on the in-house flight simulator (do not travel on his aircraft) after which refreshments were served, concluding on a remarkably interesting evening. A special patch has been designed by Cadet Cpl E Totty to mark the occasion, a sample of which was given to Stan as a memento.

Flt Lt Ian Pepper and the cadets are happy to visit the Benevolent Committee and give a presentation of their once in a lifetime experience.

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Benevolence at Work | Durham Freemasons

Durham Army Cadet Force has over 700 cadets (aged 12-18) and 200 adults in over 30 locations in every corner of County Durham, Sunderland, South Tyneside and Gateshead.

The ACF is one of the country’s largest voluntary youth organisations. It is also one of the oldest tracing its history back to 1859.

Based at HQ in the Drill Hall Chester-Le-Street, Cadet Administrative Assistant, (CAA)

Captain E Lennon (Ted) applied to Durham Benevolence for a Community Support Grant.

The grant is to be used to help with costs of training programs for young people with life skills. On early Good Friday morning Durham freemason, Lieutenant Colonel John Henry was delighted to turn out in full combat fatigues on a special mission for Durham Benevolence.

Feeling at home amongst the troop of 36 cadets and 4 adults before they departed to Nijmegen in the Netherlands on exercise. Captain Gary Richardson was presented with a certificate from John Henry on behalf of the Durham freemasons to go along with the £1,000 grant already thankfully received. Gary especially mentioned the long-time relationship between the Durham ACF and Durham freemasons where they have sponsored them in the past. John Henry wished them all a safe journey and captivated their attention when informing them that he started his army career in Durham ACF, 39 years ago.

This Community Support Grant is one of many awarded by Durham Benevolence to various organisations throughout the province on a regular basis. The latest batch includes Sunderland Culture (£1000),    Bolton Colts under 7s Football Club(£500),    Hospitality and Hope (£1000),    Humbleton & Plains Farm Youth Football Club (£1000),    ICOS, International Community Organisation of Sunderland (£1000),     Sunderland Womens Centre (£3500)

Durham freemasons proud to help

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The Little Onion Club | Durham Freemasons

“The Little Onion Club” is based in Washington, Tyne & Wear. Established in 2017, they are run by a dedicated group of volunteer members for the benefit of children and adults of all ages. The club provide gardening activities and workshops for children hosted at local elderly care homes, organise market stalls plus fun events for families and run gardening team building days. Groups include preschool toddlers and children between 3 and 16 along with parents and carers.

Local Freemasons Rob Donmall and Malcolm Pickering were invited to attend a packed club annual presentation ceremony where 40 children & adults alike were honoured with Certificates, Medals and Trophy’s awarded for achievements and voluntary services to the club.

Chief Executive Officer Vicky Calder thanked Durham Benevolence for a £1,000 Community Support Grant awarded and was pleased to receive a certificate highlighting the grant.

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Volunteering for the Province of Durham | Durham Freemasons

We are actively looking to promote Volunteering.

The Provincial Grand Master is keen to promote community support in the Province and would like to know in the first instance which members currently are contributing on a regular basis.

If you volunteer for anything at all, and or carry out unpaid help to others, we would like to know.

This is to see where we are as a Province before we start to drive forward with our plans.

Can you just send a reply email with your Name, Lodge and what you assist with and how many hours a month you volunteer.

It is all completely anonymous, and we will not release any of your details.

Drop us an email please.

The Future plan.

We are looking to promote volunteering across the Province in several ways, here are some examples.

1) To create “Garden Rescue mixed with DIY SOS teams” and assist groups who make applications to the Benevolent Committee for assistance. In the past we have allocated money to them and had little more involvement, what we can now is offer our members skills and pay for materials to achieve a good result. This will help us grow immensely in the community. It will also mean our grant money can stretch so much further!

If you possess skills such as (and not limited to) Gardening, Joinery, Brickwork, Plastering, Decoration or Painting or can assist in general work such as leaning on a brush or making tea on site. please let us know, drop us an email please on so we can start working on that part for the future.

2) For those who would like to get involved in volunteering in the community, we have already identified around 50 groups in County Durham alone who require volunteers.

3) Do you work to support blood bikes, Red Cross, local hospice or many other worth organisations.

Let us support the community together as Freemasons

If you would like to be signposted towards any of them let us know, we will certainly assist you.

Why not drop us an email on

Thank You!


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Completion of Works to New Floor at Queen Street | Durham Freemasons

This month has seen the completion of the programme of restoration works that has been ongoing at Queen Street Masonic Temple, Sunderland.

The works have consisted of a new slate roof to the main lodge room; the installation of sheep’s wool insulation to the roof space; new windows; plastering; external pointing; and stabilisation works to the structure of the buildings floors; which was brought to a close by the installation of a new Lodge Room Floor.

The substantial part of the works was funded by a series of grants from Historic England for this Grade 1 Listed Building with a contribution percentage made by the lodges and side degrees within the building via. Queen Street Masonic Temple Limited.  The new floor is an exact replica of the previous 150 year old installation and it is anticipated this investment will be as successful as its predecessor and perform its duty for the next 150 years of enjoyment of the users of the building.

The programme of works were undertaken by a Historic England approved Principal Contractor local to the area and the floor by an appointed sub-contractor also local to the North East.  The floor was installed by a Master Craftsman who was previously a member of Northumberland Freemasons .

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A night of Firsts | Durham Freemasons

Eardulph Lodge hit some new milestones on Friday 10 th February when they initiated 3 candidates and saw one of their members receive a 70-year certificate.  The Provincial Grand Master granted special dispensation to allow the Lodge to perform two ceremonies in one night.

The Lodge was opened at an earlier time by the Master, Ian Heaviside, with a top team of past masters to initiate Cameron Henderson.  Cameron should have been balloted a year ago, however a severe stroke delayed his plans until he had sufficiently recovered.  The team of past masters ensured that the ceremony was focused on Bro Henderson to make it the best experience possible.  He was directed around the Lodge by the Junior Deacon David Battensby, with his dad, Alex Henderson the Senior Deacon.

The Lodge was then called off until the usual start time when the regular officers took their positions.  The Lodge then performed a double initiation ceremony for Tom Keith and Lee Sample.  The Charge was then delivered to all three candidates collectively.  Both ceremonies were excellent and were a great foundation for the Initiate’s Masonic careers.

The celebrations continued when John Thompson, the Provincial Grand Master invited Danny Pollock to the floor to acknowledge his 70 years of membership.  John discussed those years with Danny and many memories were recalled.

Danny was Initiated in Scotland in 1953 but moved to the North East to manage the Caterpillar factory in Birtley.  He soon joined Eardulph Lodge in 1953 shortly after HM Queen Elizabeth II had taken the throne and has been a member ever since.  A regular attender of both the Lodge and the Eardulph Whiskey Club.

Danny enthused about the ‘Eardulph family’ and how much he has enjoyed his Freemasonry.  John thanked Danny for his 70 years of service and commitment to Freemasonry not just to Eardulph Lodge, but to our Province and Freemasonry in general.

John then presented Danny with his certificate however he wasn’t finished Danny was given a surprise field promotion to Past Provincial Grand Sword Bearer, much to his delight and that of the packed Lodge room.

At the festive Board the ProvGM thanked Eardulph for another wonderful masonic night in Chester Le Street, he acknowledged the excellent ceremony to initiate three candidates and to still make the night special for Danny. He congratulated them all for thinking out of the box, for thinking differently. He congratulated them on their membership drive which will see 6 candidates along with three joining members in the coming months.

Later a toast was made to Danny by Alan Jenkins, a past candidate of Danny’s and long-standing friend.  Alan recounted many funny moments including the Eardulph Lodge Whiskey Club trip to Edradour distillery and foreign escapades.  Danny being a true Scotsman likes a wee dram.  It was only fitting that he was presented with his favourite tipple, a special edition malt from Edradour distillery.


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Earthquake survivors in Turkey and Syria will receive emergency aid of £60,000 | Durham Freemasons

Survivors of the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria will be receiving vital emergency supplies thanks to a £60,000 grant from Durham Freemasons along with other Freemasons from across the country, to the British Red Cross, UK for UNHCR and UNICEF who are leading the relief effort on the ground.

More than 16,000 people are confirmed to have died in the two quakes which have devastated large areas of south west Turkey and across the border in Syria. The death toll is certain to rise significantly as more bodies are found.

Tens of thousands of survivors are sleeping in the open in temperatures which have fallen well below zero. Snow is falling in some parts as the region experiences colder than average winter weather that is also hampering rescue efforts.

Damage from the quake has affected at least seven provinces in Turkey as well as across northwest Syria. Thousands of homes have been destroyed, displacing families, and schools, hospitals, and other medical and educational facilities will have been damaged or destroyed by the quakes. Potential damage to roads and critical infrastructure will also complicate search and rescue efforts and the wider humanitarian response.

The grant comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

Luke Tredget, Head of Emergencies from the British Red Cross, said:

 “We’re very grateful for this generous grant which will allow us to provide immediate emergency relief to people who are in desperate need. This disaster has devastated vast areas of both countries and left millions of people in urgent need of help.”

John Paul Thompson from Durham Freemasons, said:

“I’m very pleased we’ve been able to help the Red Cross, UNICEF and the UNHCR with their relief effort following this terrible earthquake. Many thousands of people are in very urgent need of assistance and I’m proud that Freemasons are providing essential support to charities on the ground working with survivors.”


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Children and families with Down Syndrome will get help and support thanks to Durham Freemasons

Children and families with Down Syndrome will get help and support thanks to Durham Freemasons

More than 60 families with children who have Down Syndrome will receive support for both their medical condition and learning difficulties, thanks to a grant of £34,000 from Durham Freemasons to the Pioneering Care Partnership (PCP) charity.

PCP’s Together 21 (T21) project aims to support children with a range of medical conditions, some of which are serious. These include visual and hearing impairments, heart problems, low immunity, Leukemia, thyroid disorders and sleeping disorders. Most of the children have at least one of these medical conditions. The children will also face a range of learning difficulties associated with Down syndrome. The project delivers speech and language support including Makaton, literacy and numeracy, motor skills and life skills.

T21 provides an informal curriculum of developmental and social activities for the children and young people alongside their families, developed by their internationally recognised specialist education consultant. Each child is given an individual development plan, and the parents are supported to supplement the weekly sessions at their specialist facility with activities at home. During the school holidays PCP arrange various trips and activities.

Another key feature of Together 21 is the opportunity for the children to build friendships within peer groups. This is also a chance for parents to get to know each other, providing a vital friendship and peer support network for families.

T21 is unique, as it is the only programme in the North East of England dedicated to the education and development of children with Down syndrome. Families travel from all across the North East and North Yorkshire to benefit from Together 21, which is based and primarily delivered from the Pioneering Care Centre, Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.

The grant from Durham Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

To view PCP Website and video of our recent visit: Click here

Carol Gaskarth, Pioneering Care Partnership Chief Executive, said:

“We’re really grateful to Durham Freemasons for their generous grant which will support our essential work with children and young people with Down Syndrome. We’re there to help them improve their health, wellbeing and life chances.”

John Paul Thompson from Durham Freemasons, said:

“I’m very pleased we’ve been able to help the Pioneering Care Partnership with their hugely important work with families and children with Down Syndrome. As well as direct support for the children, parents have the chance to get to know each other and provide themselves with a vital support network.”

The attached photos show the Assistant Provincial Grand Master John Watts accompanied by Andrew Thompson and Paul Debenham, MCF representatives, who were invited to see the group in action. Many thanks to Carol Gaskarth, CEO for her assistance during the visit.


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