The Suffolk Almoners Conference 2022, which formed part of the “Year of the Almoner 2022” celebration, took place on Sunday 16th October at Ashlar House, Bury St Edmunds. It was attended by 124 delegates (up 10% on the previous year) including the Suffolk Rulers, members of the Provincial Executive, and members representing most of the Lodges in the Suffolk. The audience was made up from not only Lodge Almoners & Assistant Almoners, but Worshipful Masters, Secretaries, and other Lodge Officers, and even an Entered Apprentice who attended the Conference as his first meeting in Freemasonry. A good number of wives/partners also attended which was lovely to see.

The conference theme was “Not Forgetting the Forgotten”. It highlighted the support available to three categories of society which have been overlooked during the COVID-19 pandemic namely military veterans, children and young people facing bereavement, and our elderly community.

The audience, made up of several present and past military veterans, witnessed the signing of the Armed Forces Covenant by the Provincial Grand Master Right Worshipful Brother Ian Yeldham on behalf of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Suffolk and Air Vice-Marshall The Honourable David Murray CVO OBE DL on behalf of the military.

The Armed Forces Covenant is a bespoke document which makes additional, specific guarantees and promises above and beyond the usual pledges assured in the Covenant. 

It is a pledge to acknowledge and understand that those who serve, or who have served, in the Armed Forces, and their families, should be treated with fairness and respect in the communities, economy and society they serve with their lives and focusses on helping members of the Armed Forces community have the same access to government and commercial services and products as any other citizen.

Ian Yeldham, the Head of Suffolk Freemasons, explained “By signing the covenant on behalf of all of the Freemasons in Suffolk, I am delighted to pledge our support to the Armed Forces. In the memory of all our Brothers that served, let us support this year of the Almoner and something, so close to our very hearts and being, the Armed Forces Covenant”.

Air Vice-Marshall Murray said The Freemasons are really leading the way in signing the Armed Forces Covenant and showing their support for the Armed Forces community – both the serving and veterans- in Suffolk. They have certainly set an excellent example for other organisations and individuals to follow”

The signing was followed by a presentation from The Not Forgotten military charity which provides support to any serving man or woman who is wounded, injured or sick and any veteran with a disability, illness, or infirmity; whatever the cause and whenever it arose. Their Chairman David Cowley OBE said after the Conference “I was delighted by the offers of help received following my talk on the work of The Not Forgotten for veterans of all three Services and the Merchant Navy. I am confident that with the support of the Suffolk Lodges The Not Forgotten will play an increasingly important role in helping those in Suffolk who have served in the Armed Forces and who now suffer. I am very grateful to be given this important opportunity to spread the word about the work of The Not Forgotten.”

The Conference also heard about the work of the Ruth Strauss Foundation in supporting families facing the death of a parent & driving the need for more research into non-smoking lung cancers. Deepa Doshi Head of Mission Services gave a very inspiring talk on the work of the charity and commented afterwards “I was delighted to join the Provincial Grand Lodge of Suffolk Almoners Conference and hear about the work done by the Almoners in their community, supporting members with a range of issues, whether financial, practical, or emotional. I was given a warm welcome to share the work of the Ruth Strauss Foundation across both our Missions; providing pre-bereavement support where a child is facing parental death, raising awareness, and improving outcomes for those with non-smoking lung cancer”

Finally, there was a presentation from the Provincial Group Almoner Team which covered the support available to our Elderly Community. Caroline Wales AST from the MCF highlighted the State benefits which are commonly missed by pensioners. W. Bro Melvyn Eke presented two case studies showing the work carried out for two “lost” Brethren and how their affairs were managed for their benefit. The Provincial Grand Almoner W. Bro Jamie Gwatkin summarised a guidance document which had been published by the team entitled “A Practical Guide to Finding a Care Home”

After the Conference W. Bro Gwatkin said “I am delighted that the Conference was such a success. The feedback has been excellent which was summarised by one attendee who said….Wonderful day all around, one you couldn’t buy”

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