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Masonic News & Views - The little lodge that could
March 24, 2014
I'd like to introduce you to the little Lodge that could. The latest chapter in the life story of Friend Lodge No. 352 A.F.& A.M. is not such an unusual story. Many lodges have gone through similar ordeals. Unfortunately though, as often as not the ending of the story is much different.
In the summer of 2012 the members of Friend Lodge learned, following a routine insurance inspection, that their lodge building in Ozark, Missouri was no longer sound nor safe. Suddenly they were homeless, as were Friendship Assembly of Rainbow for Girls and Ozark Chapter of Eastern Star who shared the building and depended on the Lodge. This might have been an understandable time for panic and there was, no doubt, a considerable amount of confusion and concerned hand-wringing during the early days. Meetings were held; committees were appointed, and the search for a solution began.
Freemasons obligate themselves to help, aid and assist in time of need and fortunately for the newly homeless the brethren of southwest Missouri did not hesitate to fulfill that promise. Lodges in nearby towns generously offered the use of their building until a solution could be found and in short order the neighboring town building of Sparta Lodge No. 296 became the new meeting place of the poor vagabonds. It was a nice building. In many ways it was nicer than their old building, but it wasn't home. And, there's no place like home.
For the next year the brethren of Friend Lodge sought to save their old building in Ozark, MO. They met with engineers, architects and builders, but every recommended solution came with an impractical price. Finally, in July of 2013 they turned their gaze to finding a new home. Friend Lodge, by any measure, is not a wealthy lodge. Nor does it have a large membership to draw upon. But, it's officers and members had faith that God would provide an opportunity and determination to meet whatever challenges arose. For the alternative, that their Lodge, chartered and in constant operation since 1870, should become a footnote in time was unthinkable.
Fund raising began in earnest. A separate legal entity was formed for the purpose of securing financing. Lodge members scoured the town and countryside in search of a suitable building or parcel of land upon which to build. During this time, though, the Lodge did not lose focus of its purpose for being. They continued in their charitable acts within the community. They met and conducted the regular business of the Lodge. They practiced the craft, inducted new members and progressed them through the Masonic degrees. They even co-sponsored and supported a new chapter of DeMolay for young men.
After many months and several false starts a new home was finally found. A deal was made and before the ink was fully dry on the paperwork the labor of converting it into a proper lodge building began. That work is ongoing but on the first Tuesday of this month, their regular meeting night, the Brethren of Friend Lodge No. 352 A.F.& A.M. met and conducted business in their own Lodge home.
The work is far from over and the future is still uncertain for Friend Lodge. The remodel of the building must be finished. The building itself must be payed for, else they lose much more in the respect of the community they exist to serve. They're a determined group and not without pride, but they realize that the obligation to help, aid and assist is as much about accepting as it is giving. There are many ways you can help, if you want to, from swinging a hammer to spreading the word to making a monetary donation. Just visit the Friend Lodge Web site for updates and to see how you can help, aid and assist.
The Lodge is located at 205 West Bain Street in Ozark, Missouri. If you happen to be in the Springfield/Branson area on the first Tuesday of any month you are cordially invited to dinner at 6:30. For Masons, Lodge will be duly opened at 7:30 pm.
p.s. Look for news this week on the CowChows stories.
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