Dirigo Lodge delivers food to area food pantries

Members of Dirigo Lodge #104, from left to right, Lenny Goodine, present Lodge master, Jason DeMerchant, lodge member, Sheldon Goodine, past Lodge master and lodge member, Don Pratt, trustee of the Maine Mason Charitable Foundation and lodge member. (photo by Ron Maxwell)

by Ron Maxwell

Caring for your neighbor is a tradition that is alive and well here in central Maine. I was fortunate enough to see our local Masons in action this week at the Dirigo Lodge #104. Lodge #104 was founded in 1860 and its first lodge master was James Parnell Jones. This lodge has continued since, and celebrated its 160th anniversary last year. I spent some time talking with the men behind the scenes and here’s the story.

Member Sheldon Goodine (and a former lodge master) says he asked about doing something for the needs in our area at a recent lodge meeting. The group discussed and adjourned, but the seeds were planted.

Jason DeMerchant (their newest member, and grandson of Sheldon Goodine) went to work the next day at a distribution center and started the ball rolling by asking his superiors if they wanted to take part. Their work is to supply local shops (think Hannaford and the like) with the product they put on their shelves. When the supplies come to the distribution center they are in a large quantity which is broken up and then sent in smaller amounts to the local shops. The excess is good product which sometimes does not get to the shelves of any shop, and it was a pallet of this excess that was donated to the Masons’ efforts.

The Masons have a charitable foundation, the Maine Masonic Charitable Foundation, which works to maximize the efficiency of donations. The Chairman of Disbursement and lodge member Don Pratt, joined the process by coordinating with food banks in Windsor, Palermo and China to distribute this donation to as many in need as possible.

Fast forward to the day of handing over the donations to the local food banks!

Food items collected by Dirigo Lodge #104, prior to their distribution to China, Windsor and Palermo food pantries. (photo by Ron Maxwell)

I arrived early to speak with the lodge members before the food bank representatives arrived. In addition to Sheldon Goodine and Jason DeMerchant, who were present to help load the food bank vans, were the current Lodge Master, Lenny Goodine (son of Sheldon, and uncle of Jason) and Don Pratt. I chatted with all four members about the day and the process that made it possible and got a tour of the lodge. All four made quick work of the mountains of donations in an assembly line process that streamed loads out of the lodge and into the waiting van of the volunteer from China. There were protein bars and breakfast cereal, toiletries and bandages, taco sauce and barbecue sauce, ready to heat meals and side dishes, organic candy and fruit snack. (If you read that last sentence out loud you can get a feel of what it was like to watch the four men bring load after load out of the lodge!) In no time, the donations were whisked off to the respective food banks. I left after the China load, and as I swung out of the parking lot, the four members were hard at work filling the truck for Windsor. From idea to source, coordination to distribution, the well-tended machine ran, powered by the dedication of lodge members. What was a question became a well-timed donation from members of a community to the community at large.

This process is not unique to the Masons – I have also seen it in our schools and our places of worship as members turn out to assist the community that surrounds them. This is the spirit that inspired me to settle here many years ago. When you have a cynical moment or a discouraging day, think about these efforts and try getting involved with one of the causes that give back. Taking your mind off yourself and thinking/doing for others is the backbone of our community. We should all spend some time caring for our neighbors.


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