After serving four years as the Provincial Grand Almoner, Ernie Greenhalgh retired at the meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge on Wednesday 10 May 2017.
During his four years in office, Ernie has worked tirelessly to implement a new system of Care in the Province, which he developed with the senior officers of what is now called the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
Ernie has travelled approximately 78,000 miles since he was notified about becoming Provincial Grand Almoner. He has made 103 presentations across the Province and in 35 visits to London he has built up a significant list of contacts.
Ernie was the representative for the Province on the Samaritan Fund, which is now closed due to the creation of the MCF. Ernie is a member of the training sub-committee and the pilot committee for the new care system.
He has conducted three training days for the new PrGA’s for the Provinces of Essex, Sussex and Cheshire. Ernie has also attended three two-day almoner conferences and five group PrGA’s meetings.
In the last three months Ernie has been carrying out testing on the new IT system on behalf of the MCF (The new IT system links the care system into the new games computer system in London) prior the system going live in all Provinces and Districts around the world.
Ernie’s longest visits to clients have taken him to Glasgow and Worcestershire because due to client confidentiality no other person could be involved in the applications.
He has also spent 32 days since coming into office organising and developing training for the Provincial Care team, that apart from running a Care structure for the Province!
The retirement dinner was held at Brookfeild Hall in Westhoughton and was attended by brethren from across the Province, including three APrGMs and the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison and his wife Maureen.
After the four course meal, the Provincial Grand Almoner proposed the toast to the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison.
Tony thanked Eric for his toast and then proposed the toast to Ernie. He spoke about Ernie’s long membership starting with his recollection of the day that Ernie was initiated into Sandylands Lodge No 5702 in Morecambe May 1988. Tony said: “There were many of Ernie’s personal friends there on that occasion too.”
Tony continued: “Ernie fulfilled his Masonic duties to the full, as he has done throughout his entire Masonic journey. He had a very successful year as WM in 1999, installing his successor who was in office for only two months, then sadly passed to the Grand Lodge above, Ernie ended up back in the hot seat for his second year.
Ernie became the Local Care Officer in 2009 for the Lancaster and District Group, then in 2011 he was appointed as the Regional Care Officer for Furness and South Lakeland, Lancaster and Preston.
In 2013, the Province advertised for a Provincial Grand Almoner to succeed Roy Pyne and there were many applicants for the role, Ernie was appointed his successor and the rest as they say is history!
In 2007, Ernie received his first appointment in Provincial Grand Lodge as the acting Provincial Junior Grand Deacon. Ernie was promoted to PPrJGW in October 2012 and at PrGL I was delighted to be able to promote him to Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden, for which we all congratulate him. Right from the start of Ernie being the PrGA he wanted to make his mark and he certainly has done that!
As you all know he changed the entire Care system within the Province, making some sweeping changes and we now have in place a Care Structure which is being sought after by MCF and will be the corner stone of Care in this and all the other Provinces for a long time to come.
The Deputy President of the MCF, James Newman said in the PrGL meeting in Blackpool that Ernie has made an enormous contribution to the development of the new Care System and he is a great asset to the MCF in their efforts to roll out the new system to the other Provinces and Districts.”
Concluding his speech Tony asked all the brethren to stand and congratulate Ernie on his achievements as the Provincial Grand Almoner of West Lancashire and wish him a long, happy but most of all a healthy retirement to enjoy more time with Shelia.
Finally Tony said: “I also hope that you will find some time to continue enjoying your Freemasonry. Tony then presented Ernie with a Karcher power washer and a £50 B&Q voucher from the Care team.
In response Ernie said: “It is not very often that I am at a loss for words, but today is one of those occasions. When I was asked if I would like a retirement dinner, I expected it to be with my team and perhaps four or five special friends.
Eric had other ideas and now I am overwhelmed at the number of people who wanted to share this dinner with my wife and I. To hear some of the comments made while gratifying, are also slightly embarrassing as contra to the general belief I only like publicity for the project to highlight and galvanise people into doing what is right at that time.
It would be remiss of me not to start by thanking my wife and family, who over the last five years or so have taken a back seat while I have wrestled with different ways to improve the system of ‘Care’.
To my team, I am grateful for the work you have all carried out together with your belief and support which has made the new system so beneficial to the people who need our help.
I don’t pretend it has all been plain sailing believe it or not the most difficult day was not in presenting the blueprint to the cabinet, but having to explain it to my team, where I receive a mixed bag on that night because the two-tier management structure was dismantled. Under the new system all team members where on the same level. The majority were prepared to give the system time to prove it was the way forward, to which I will always be grateful.
Over the next 12 to 18 months it is crucial the team focuses on getting almoners to make house calls to all the people we have discussed at our various meetings. Although the whole team should be involved, the Pastoral Care Officers in particular have to make sure this change in direction for almoners happens.
Let me give you an example: We in the Care structure are very like a company that has a block of core business, in our case that is the people who have the opportunity to re-apply for a further grant. However, a number of these will during the year die reducing our core business, plus some will find improvement in their circumstances and no longer need our help.
We therefore need to attract new business, 20% comes from our publicity which transmits through the London freephone number but the other 80% has to come from our lodges and this can only be achieved by the almoners making regular home visits.
One thing above all else has made me proud of our team, is the way London has recognised West Lancashire as the benchmark for other Provinces to achieve.”
Ernie continued: “Having had the opportunity to work with Harry Cox, a person with the highest integrity, I am only sorry our time was relatively short. I remember early on asking Harry: “What do you know about care?”, to which his answer was: “Very little” but he was willing to learn!
Unfortunately, not many people understand the dedication and workload involved when you become a member of the Provincial Care Team. I think Harry now understands just how much the Care team are involved, devoting so much of their time to assist people in need.
I thank you Harry for your understanding especially when things have at times been difficult, but above all I value your friendship.
My message to almoners, the opportunity is there in your new role to become a vital part of the system which has never been more important.
We are asking you to concentrate on learning about the people you visit, you need to listen, ask questions and what could be more enjoyable than spending time with someone having a cup of tea, talking about everyday things and using your eyes to spot potential difficulties that person might have. If in doubt, report back to one of the Care team who will with tact put the wheels in motion. The role of almoner has never been as important in the overall scheme of things as it is today.”
Ernie concluded by wishing Eric Hart all the best as he looks forward to the challenges ahead and saying: “It is gratifying to know the team are all together giving you their support, certainly in the first 12 months when it is so important to know you have a stable team as you get accustomed to your new role. I am delighted to announce that since Wednesday, Tony has made a further appointment to the Provincial Care Team, Eric now has a deputy Paul Broadley to assist him in the overall running of the Care system.
I wish you Eric and Paul every success in your new roles as Provincial and Deputy Provincial Grand Almoner’s. I am sure you will form a formidable partnership taking the Care team forward in the Province.”
Eric Hart then presented Maureen and Sheila with Flowers to thank them for attending the dinner.