The Star-Herald

Local Masons donate $2,000 to Homeless Services of Aroostook

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Homeless Services of Aroostook’s Presque Isle shelter will soon see some improvements, thanks in part to a local Masonic chapter.

 

The Caribou-based Freemason Garfield Chapter donated $2,000 to the Homeless Services of Aroostook on Thursday, Feb. 13. 

The donation will help pay for the enlargement of the bathroom on the first-floor “low-barrier” section of the shelter, which opened in July. 

Garfield Chapter officer Jim May said they had received the funds from its statewide organization, the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Maine. Its website lists the Grand Chapter as having 73 chapters across Maine, with Garfield Chapter No. 48 being the only one in Aroostook County. 

May said the chapter has about 150 members, some of whom moved away from Aroostook County after the closure of Loring Air Force Base in Limestone in 1994, but still keep in contact with the lodge. 

Garfield Chapter head Terry Cochran said that charity is an essential part of being a Mason, and is practiced by members of Masonic organizations worldwide. Chapter officer Phil Walton said the group had previously donated to Aroostook Teen Leadership Camp, Catholic Charities of Maine and the Special Olympics affiliate in Aroostook County. 

“It’s one of the main drives that we have,” Cochran said. “It’s great to give back.”

Fraternal Freemason organizations have existed for hundreds of years, traditionally originating in the European stonemason guilds of the Middle Ages. Today, experts estimate that there are two to six million Freemasons worldwide. 

Homeless Services of Aroostook Housing Manager Melanie Bubar said the money would go toward the construction of extra showers and bathrooms at the shelter’s low-barrier section.

“We have 10 to 12 people down here every night,” Bubar said. “And with two bathrooms, it gets a little rough.”

Bubar said there had been a steady stream of people at the newly built section of the shelter, which houses those who were previously denied entry because of anger issues or violent criminal histories. 

She said the shelter had experienced some issues recruiting volunteers, especially on weekends. 

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