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Local Masonic Lodge gives to area special needs youth

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Lodge members Bill Thornbury, Larry Freeman, Max Stansberry and Vince West, from left, hold the thank you card that Red Bank Middle School’s CDC class created in appreciation for the lodge’s most recent $1,500 donation.

Red Bank Middle School’s Special Olympics flag football team proudly sports the state championship title, traveling to Nashville each year to compete in the tournament. RBMS special education teachers said the team wouldn’t even be able to go to the championships if it weren’t for Hill City Masonic Lodge #603.

“No matter your stage or position in life, first and foremost you can help others,” said past lodge master Vince West. “We contribute to a lot of associations and individuals within a 50-mile radius of Chattanooga. The lodges were established to aid not only their own members, but the community at large.”

The lodge gives $1,500 donations to organizations such as the Ronald McDonald House and Teen Challenge each year. Feb. 19, lodge members presented checks to the the local middle school’s Comprehensive Development Classroom as well as to Eagles Rest Ranch in Flinstone, Ga., both of which work with special needs youth in the community.

“We wouldn’t be able to do any community-based instruction without you,” said CDC teacher Emma Martin during the check presentation, which marks the fourth grant given to the class.

The class goes on several outings throughout the school year based on what the students are learning. For example, Martin said when students are learning social skills involving restaurants or handling money, they actually go out into the community as a class to practice those skills. The transportation for the trips, however, is not funded through the school system.

“We feel like it’s so important,” said CDC teacher Kristi Totherow of such activities.

“It prepares them,” added Martin. “We had parents in the past who said they couldn’t take their child out to a restaurant because it was too hard. And a lot of the time they wouldn’t get to have these experiences because of medical bills [and other financial contraints].”

The lodge members said they enjoy giving back to the community so often.

“It not only helps the community, it gets your name out for being a good organization that gives back,” said member and two-time past master Larry Freeman.

Red Bank Middle’s CDC gives back to the lodge in its own way. When Freeman was undergoing medical treatment in the last year, the kids from the class all wrote him get well letters and cards, he said.

“It made my heart feel very good,” said Freeman to the class. “I appreciate it and I love all of you.”

At the lodge are more thank you cards and notes, all displayed on a very special bulletin board as a reminder of whom the lodge is helping.

“These children may not understand everything, but they understand that they’re getting help,” said lodge senior warden and second ranking officer Bill Thornbury. “You wouldn’t believe what our bulletin board looks like.”

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