Local Masons Aid Brothers in Mississippi

The Masonic lodge in Lumberton.
The Masonic lodge in Lumberton.

For weeks now, we've brought you stories of Red Cross volunteers, doctors, communication specialists and firefighters who have gone to the gulf to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. But a band of brothers from a local Masonic lodge have also gone out of their way to help.

It all started when local Mason Keith Rose--also an employee of Savannah Electric--went to Mississippi to help restore power. He stumbled upon one small town with its share of destruction. But it also had a Masonic lodge where everyone was turning for help. He knew right away he had to do more than just get the lights back on.

Katrina left its mark on so many Gulf Coast towns, and Lumberton, Mississippi, was one of them. The town of 3,000 is located about 75 miles inland. The Lumberton Masonic lodge became a shelter and the town's hub.

"We started serving three hot meals a day and ended up serving 2,000 people a day," said the lodge's Chris Holtzinger.

And their dedication made a big impression on fellow Masons in Georgia.

"They asked me if they could do anything to help me, and I'm thinking these gentlemen's houses are destroyed and they are asking how they can help me," recalled Rose. "I said wow, they are the ones who need help."

Right away Rose called Charlie Brewer, a member of Thunderbolt's Masonic lodge, and told him Lumberton needed their help.

"We went shopping at Sam's. We took money that was donated and bought a lot of supplies, people brought bedding, clothing, we got insulin," Brewer said. "Everything that was asked for, we were able to locate."

They worked hard and fast. It only took the Masons about 72 hours to gather and load up all the supplies. But it wasn't just the Masons, it was ladies from the Eastern Star, local churches and many others who pitched in to help.

Last Friday morning, they were on the road, headed to Lumberton.

"When he told me we are on the way down there 72 hours later, with a truck full of stuff, I couldn't believe it," Rose said.

Neither could the Masons and people who live in Lumberton. As soon as they unloaded the trailer, they began handing out all the supplies, and even went door to door.

"We desperately needed this stuff and appreciate everything your lodge members and citizens have done for Lumberton, Mississippi," said the town's Rick Carpello. "And on behalf of Lumberton and Lodge 417, thank you."

That was all Rose, Brewer and the other local Masons needed to hear. "It makes me feel good," said Brewer.

"They say once a Mason, always a Mason, and you can always find a friend somewhere," noted Rose. "And that was true."

They say they are keeping in touch with brothers in Mississippi. This week, some of the lights in the town came back on and the Red Cross and others are now in town helping them out.

Reported by: Michelle Paynter, mpaynter@wtoc.com