The Masonic Lodge, known internationally as being the longest running fraternity in the world, with links stemming back to the Medieval Ages, has a strong connection with Teller County.
More importantly, it has gained a growing reputation for giving back to the community, providing select scholarships for area students, as well as supporting a number of school programs and helping a variety of local nonprofits. It is an organization that is often overlooked and doesn’t receive the recognition of other big community players.
The origins of the Free Masons can be traced back as far as the 10th century, and the group is still very active all across the globe today.
Locally, the fraternity has two chapters, the Ute Pass Masonic Lodge located in Woodland Park and the Cripple Creek Masonic lodge in Divide. Both still have active members and they constantly do things to give back to the community.
The Cripple Creek group was chartered in 1893, and it has since moved from the gaming community to Divide. The Ute Pass Lodge opened in Woodland Park more than 60 years ago. To this day, the brotherhood still attracts new members and aids the community in various ways.
According to Senior Warden Steve Smith of the Ute Pass Masonic Lodge, the organization supports the community in several ways including financial contributions to local non-profits. “We are going to be holding community barbecues to get out there and feed the community,” Smith said. “We do a lot of charitable contributions. Our lodge has donated to the Community Cupboard here. And, we have given money to Columbine Elementary School for their Maker’s Space.”
According to Senior Warden Bob Slagle of the Cripple Creek Masonic Lodge, the organization also gives scholarships to local students each year. “We have an ongoing scholarship that’s $8,000, $1,000 for each semester of college,” Slagle said. “That’s ongoing and it’s every year for Cripple Creek. It is our desire to increase that and expand it to other students in other schools in Teller County.”
This year, the two lodges have also been able to give back in a new way. For the first time, the masonic lodges will be giving scholarships for four students to attend band camp this summer at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
Since, Cripple Creek-Victor High School no longer offers a marching band, all of the scholarships this year will be awarded to children attending the Woodland Park School District. “One thing we look for is that the four students have never been to band camp,” Slagle explained. “We gave the money to the band director and he selected four students to go to the camp. He chose students that if they had to pay their own way they couldn’t do it.”
As a whole the Masonic Lodge also supports the Shriners Organization across the world. The Shriners provide medical care for children and operated hospitals like the St, Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Denver.
When people enter their child for medical services, the Free Masons also provide a picture and fingerprints to the parents of the child. The parents are the only ones who have access to the photos and fingerprints so that they can keep them on file if they ever need them for things like identification reasons.
The Masonic Lodge requires their members to be “righteous” and each new member must go through a background check and not have any recent felony convictions. Once accepted into the Masonic Lodge, members are held to moral standards as the group helps each other become better men.
The Masonic Lodge doesn’t solicit or spend efforts recruiting new members. However, instead they invite members of the public to enjoy free dinners at their meetings and if they want to join they can take the next steps. To become a member of the Masonic Lodge someone must “ask one to be on” or ask a current member how to join.
Columbine Elementary School Showcases Art and Technology
One of the contributions the masonic lodge based out of Woodland Park has done is give donations to the local Columbine Elementary School for their “maker’s space.” The “maker’s space” at the school is an area where students learn the basics of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics or STEM.
All students at the elementary school starting in kindergarten learn basics of STEM that will give them a solid foundation as they further their education. And next year the program will be open to even younger students attending pre-kindergarten.
Students in kindergarten start learning the basics of subjects like computer programming, robotics, and three dimensional printing. As they move up in grades, they expand on what they can build and program.
The maker’s space room in the school recently got an upgrade when the Messner Family donated a 3D printer for the school to use. The local masonic lodge then pitched in to help provide spools of plastics be used in the printer to make small plastic objects like chess pieces.
On April 24, Columbine Elementary opened its doors to parents during their “Columbine Creates Art Show and Maker’s Faire.” Parents were invited into the school to see various displays of the things the children had been working on over the school year.
This year both art and technology were the focus of the displays. Parents could see various types of paintings and artworks that students created inside the gym. They could also go into the Maker’s Space room and see creations like 3D printed objects, castles, and even operating robots.