December ended with several openings hearkening to a long history in Elkin. One of them was the open installation of Elkin Masonic Lodge #454.
“The Grand Lodge of North Carolina was chartered in 1771 and re-organized in its current form in 1787. In fact it was formed before North Carolina had joined the union,” said newest Master of Elkin Lodge Louis Jeroslow, “and before George Washington was elected president of the United States, our Elkin lodge number 454 was chartered.”
In spite of the history, many people are either unaware of what the Freemasons are or are uninformed.
“I think we have done a great disservice to ourselves,” said fellow Mason Tommy Wheeler, referring to the tradition of joking with incoming initiates about riding a goat or wearing red socks. “That’s not what we’re about at all.”
“I was particularly fascinated about Masonry for a long time as with most people because of the secrecy involved with it, but it really cemented for me when I was getting ready to move here,” said Jeroslow, “and I was getting closer to the guy who started our vineyard.”
Jeroslow noticed the ring of Mark Greene, who was a past master of the lodge like his father before him. Greene’s ring, combined with the mention of the fellowship in conversation as well as meeting people in the community, lead Jeroslow to asking questions about six years ago.
“The catch phrase that you see on bumper stickers and license plates is ‘to be one, ask one’ and that’s it,” said Jeroslow, whose questions lead to not only joining the organization and becoming master of the Elkin Lodge on Dec. 28, 2017, but learning more about his family history.
“When I mentioned that to my parents, both of them to my surprise said, ‘Oh yeah, both of your grandfathers were Masons,’” he said.
Jeroslow was able to incorporate his Masonic heritage into his installation including the lapel pin of the grandfather he was named for and the Bible of the great-grandfather he knew as his “Zedie.”
“Our beginning prayer tonight I made upon the Bible that belonged to him,” said Jeroslow during his installation speech, “his hand written notes inside.”
“You always hear the thing that people say is that Masonry takes a good man and makes him a better man, and I think that’s the part that intrigues me the most,” said Wheeler, who was raised in 1978 after watching his father and grandfather serve the community through the Masons.
“It’s supposed to be a good reputation to get in, and if you live your life taught by the lessons in the Masonic Lodge, you can’t help but be a better person and that really attracted me to it also,” said Wheeler. “Other than my family and my church, I think this is the next thing that I would say has changed my life the most.”
“The Freemasons have sought to unite good men of all backgrounds and make them better husbands, fathers and citizens by encouraging and cultivating friendships, morality and brotherly love and our passion for helping the less fortunate,” said Jeroslow. “Besides preserving and guarding the centuries of traditions and knowledge of Masonry, our primary activity is philanthropy.
“There’s the ritual and the fraternity and the ceremonies that we’ve been keeping alive for centuries, but the purpose of the work is to help the needy. That’s the journey.”
Masons and their brother and sister organizations take on a variety of concerns, the most well-known being the Shriner’s burn hospitals.
“We focus our efforts towards supporting three organizations here in North Carolina,” said Jeroslow.
“The first Masonic orphanage for children in the United States was built in Oxford, North Carolina, established in 1858,” said Jeroslow, describing one of the main charities funded by the efforts of the Elkin Masons.
“The home for children exists for one purpose — to help children who need a stable, caring and loving home. They provide, teach, guide, nurture and focus on life both at and after the Masonic home for children. It is a safe haven where children can flourish there and beyond.”
The Masons care for the elderly as well as youths through Whitestone Retirement Community in Greensboro, which was established in 1912.
“Whitestone offers the convenience of skilled nursing care, rehab services and memory care in the neighborhood setting on 42 wooded acres, offering homes, cottages or apartments with financial assistance available for residents costs and medical care,” said Jeroslow. “They even offer an outstanding residential program that offer specialized care for those with Alzheimer’s and related memory disorders.”
The third major charity local Masons help fund is the North Carolina Masonic Foundation, which has supported Masonic charity efforts since 1929. This 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation pays for scholarships, historic preservation and disaster relief.
“Not a penny [that is earned goes] to the lodge. All of it. Every cent [goes to charity],” said Jeroslow, relating how the lodge had to receive special permission to use funds for a basic building repair.
“We’re not allowed to take any of it. It’s prohibited. I mean all of it has to go to the charities. That’s what we do.”
In addition to the barbecue chicken sales, which will continue throughout the upcoming year, the Masonic Lodge also earns money by renting out the fellowship hall for $200.
“This is an amazing facility. Besides all the seating here, there’s a catering kitchen that’s very well appointed that’s underutilized,” said Jeroslow.
“Really the only policy that we have is you’re responsible for damage and I think there’s a rule someplace that you have to clean up after yourselves and haul your trash out, that kind of thing,” said Wheeler, stating a lodge brother used it over the holidays to hold a family dinner.
“This building sits here on Market Street and people drive by it all the time and it’s like invisible. Nobody ever really pays attention,” said Jeroslow, who hopes people will not only make use of the lodge, but come to understand the purpose of the brotherhood and its traditions that extend beyond family connections and communities but unites strangers.
“There’s automatically that bond there,” said Wheeler of meeting a previously unknown Fellow. “I don’t know of any other organization where it’s like that.”
One of the reasons may be a higher expectation of the character of the stranger who is also a Mason.
“I think the quality is what we would rather strive for than quantity,” said Wheeler, explaining most civic and fraternal organizations are having trouble with membership.
“There’s so much more to keep your attention now, so membership has fallen off, but the core of it is still here,” said Wheeler. “I would love for more people to join, but it has to be their decision and their desire to improve themselves.”
“Their interest level of learning about the history and the traditions of the ritual [is important], but also to do good in their community and to help the less fortunate,” said Jeroslow. “The basic duty that we assume is to care for those in need and contribute to their relief as liberally as we can.”
Elkin Masonic Lodge #454 will be doing that in several ways this year with the help of the community who, in addition to renting the fellowship hall at 114 W. Market St. in Elkin and purchasing dinners, can pass along pennies and other change.
“They say spare change can change lives,” said Jeroslow during his installation speech. “We all end up with specks of spare change that mean little to us on a typical day, but compared to someone in need, this trifle can be combined to make an important difference in people’s lives.”
To find out how to get a change box for a home or business, contact www.facebook.com/Elkin-Masonic-Lodge-1462583010721463/.
For more information about the Elkin Masonic Lodge #454, go to masonpost.com/nc/elkin454.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.