Al Clark Reflects on Swigert Middletown Masonic Lodge
Masonic lodges have been around for hundreds of years. Members can include tradesmen, policemen, lawyers, chefs and even celebrities. Al Clark, the philanthropy committee chairperson for the Swigert Middletown Masonic Lodge No. 218 and a member of the masons for decades, shares with us some of the outreach projects near and dear to our local masons and their sisterly counterparts, the Eastern Star.
A California native, Clark and his wife Jeannie found their way to Kentucky by way of his workplace, Greif Brothers in Columbus, Ohio. The company owned a location on St. Louis Avenue in Louisville, where Clark worked as a lumber salesperson back in 1987. Once the couple arrived here, they fell in love with the city and have been in Louisville ever since. In fact, Jeannie had a long career working with State Farm Agent Bob Blair as his office manager. They have become fixtures of the masonic scene and the Louisville community at large.
Clark says individuals can become a masons if they have family members who have joined, and a great approach for those who are interested is to ask an existing mason about the process of joining. The masons don’t solicit members. Clark’s own masonic lineage, which can be traced to England, is eight generations long, and his grandfather was a mason for 65 years.
Like many fraternal clubs, the masons are a secret society, but Clark is quick to point out that there is “nothing subversive” about masonry. Membership does involve secret handshakes and other components kept close to the vest, but one aspect of the masons that is not secretive is how much each lodge cares for its community. Fortunately for us, the Swigert Middletown Masonic Lodge is no exception.
The governing body of the masons is the Grand Lodge of Kentucky, located on Commonwealth Avenue. There are approximately 160 to 170 members, and meetings are held on the first and third Mondays of the month at the Swigert Middletown Hall. There is typically a dinner at 6 p.m., after which a meeting begins at 7 p.m. The dinner is not just for the masons.
The ladies of the masons have their own group, known as Eastern Star. One could call it a ladies auxiliary, but it is every bit akin to masonry beliefs and precepts. The masons even offer youth organizations – Rainbow Girls and Job’s Daughters for young ladies, and the Order of DeMolay for young men.
The Swigert Lodge has supported several organizations throughout the years including Make-A-Wish Foundation, local little league baseball programs, St. Mary’s Center on Aiken Road, and the Morton Center, which offers treatment for substance abuse. Clark says some of his lodge members, as well as some members’ family and friends, have benefited from the Morton Center.
St. Mary’s Center serves as a day facility for those with autism. Several members of the lodge have attended the center to experience what a day there is like.
“There is a room there at the center that was donated by Papa John Schnatter,” Clark says, referring to the Papa John’s Pizza founder. “Everyone will gather into there and soon a delivery is made from the Papa John’s commissary. Would you believe that it is a skid of dismantled pizza boxes? These individuals go crazy for the chance to assemble the boxes, and prepare them to be placed back on the truck to be hauled off to be used in the restaurants. The look on their faces when the job is completed absolutely brings tears to my eyes. Within those moments I am glad that we can help.”
While the Swigert Lodge strives to support local causes, the organization helps national agencies as well, including the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).
One of the largest charitable events that the lodge supports is the Middletown Elementary perfect attendance program. Working with Justin Matson, the school’s principal, and the Family Resource Center at the school, the masons donate money and bicycles. The bikes are used to incentivize the students to come to school every day, and monetary donations serve to assist those in need.
During the Middletown Elementary’s welcome assembly at the beginning of the school year, Matson shows off a bicycle or two, to give the students a glimpse of what they could win through perfect attendance. Through the generosity of local sports store Academy Sports + Outdoors, the masons were able to provide eight bikes last year.
Middletown Elementary and the masons were able to partner up and donate bikes to Hite Elementary as well, to aid in Hite’s perfect attendance incentive program.
The program has gotten so extensive and well received that there are never enough bikes to go around, which illustrates that children are attending school – a big win for everyone.
The masons are well connected and in tune with the local community, and enjoy sharing their talents and energy for many worthwhile projects. And should you want to join, just ask.