By Sonya Carney
The Masonic Home of Missouri’s Long-Term Financial Assistance Program helps clients stay safe and secure.
The classic hymn, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” brings to mind the strength found in a higher power that surrounds, comforts, and lifts us up when times are difficult. The three Principles of Freemasonry —Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth —put this faith into action. As Masonic Lodges and Eastern Star Chapters build bonds of brotherly and sisterly love, members freely join in covenant as family, with a supportive embrace they can lean on when times get tough.
Through charity, members share peace, strength, and comfort by contributing to their communities and supporting the programs and services of the Masonic Home of Missouri. The Long-Term Financial Assistance Program is just one way the Masonic Home of Missouri reinforces the fraternal bond by ensuring the long-term care needs of Missouri Masons, their wives or widows, and Eastern Star women are within their reach.
Charity begins at home with the Long-Term Financial Assistance Program, as financial assistance caseworkers meet clients where they are—whether in their community homes or in facilities—to connect them with resources and financial support. Three clients of the Long-Term Financial Assistance Program, Sister Shirley Beasley, Brother Cecil Keeler, and Sister Orvella Wright, generously share their experiences with the program in the hope of encouraging their Masonic Brothers and Sisters to seek assistance when they need it. All three say they understand how hard it can be to ask for help. Although they initially felt reluctant or uncomfortable, leaning on the Masonic Home for assistance has brought them comfort and peace by alleviating their worries.
Blessed Peace With My Lord So Near
While Sister Shirley Beasley leans every day on her faith in God and her network of family, friends, church, and neighbors, she also is bolstered by the support she receives from the Masonic Home’s Long-Term Financial Assistance Program.
Shirley is no stranger to doing her part in the face of hardship. She was born at home—the fifth of eight children—in southwest Missouri. When her father sought new employment, the family moved to the “Inner City” area of Kansas City, where they lived in a house with no indoor plumbing and an outhouse.
“We were poor, but we didn’t know it,” she says.
The only daughter among her siblings, Shirley took care of her brothers while her mother operated a restaurant to support the family. Shirley was still in high school, balancing her classes and pitching in with shifts at the restaurant, when her brother brought his friend Paul to meet her. Paul was promptly smitten, and he vowed to Shirley’s brother that he would marry her.
True to his word, Paul and Shirley were married three days after her high school graduation. They had two children and built a construction business together, with Shirley helping with the bookwork. Over the years, Shirley continued to work in secretarial roles, and she was a switchboard operator until she retired.
Shirley and Paul began their Masonic affiliation when two friends talked with them about membership and convinced them to join. Paul was a Master Mason for more than 50 years, while Shirley has been a member of Eastern Star for more than 60 years. Though it’s difficult for her to attend Chapter meetings now, she says she loved the ladies very much and still counts several as friends.
In the years after Paul passed away in 2005, Shirley began to experience some health problems. Despite her difficulties, she is steadfast in her determination to remain in the same country home Paul built for them in 1970. Shirley says that Paul thoughtfully designed the home for the two of them to age in place. However, as her medical needs increased and she began to struggle with her expenses, Shirley worried about having to give up her home and move to a facility.
Shirley says she initially heard about the Masonic Home of Missouri’s Financial Assistance Programs through her Eastern Star Chapter. Although she didn’t contact the Masonic Home right away, she eventually reached out for help as her expenses and her worries increased. The Masonic Home was there with help and support.
The Masonic Home helps Shirley with her medical bills, real estate and property taxes and provides monthly assistance for her regular expenses. She describes the Masonic Home’s Long-Term Financial Assistance Program as a “lifesaver,” saying that the assistance she receives has helped her keep her home and relieved her worries.
“It’s why I haven’t gotten depressed,” she says. “God blessed me with you all.”
Cecil L.Keeler, Jr.
Oh, How Sweet to Walk in This Pilgrim Way
Like Shirley, Brother Cecil Keeler counts the Masonic Home of Missouri as one of “God’s blessings.” A hard-working man throughout his life, Cecil finally retired at age 80 after decades of work as a police officer, over-the-road truck driver, and Enterprise employee. He joined the Masons in 1960 along with two of his brothers. Cecil says the three were raised as Master Masons at the same time in 1961, with their father later becoming a Mason as well.
Cecil says his family was drawn to Freemasonry because it reflects their values of service and charity. “We were all service-minded,” he says. “All the precepts fit us to a T.” Cecil carried out his mission of service, both on the job and with his Lodge. In 2008, during Cecil’s term as Worshipful Master, Meramec Lodge No. 313 participated in the MoCHIP program, helping to provide security to more than 1,000 children. Cecil says that he and his brother Joe established a monthly fundraising breakfast at their Lodge that drew hundreds of guests. He also began reaching out to widows and homebound members to maintain their connections with the Lodge.
“The assistance from the Masonic Home has brought me comfort. With any problem, I know I can call the staff, and they will help me.”
— Cecil L. Keeler, Jr.
In 2014, Cecil’s journey as a Mason came full circle: He realized it was time to contact the Masonic Home and seek financial assistance. Cecil says that his wife was in declining health, and the couple needed to find other long-term living arrangements that would better support their needs. They were concerned about relying financially on their adult children, he says. So, they turned to the Masonic Home to find a suitable independent living facility and applied for financial assistance to help with the cost. The couple lived together in the independent living facility for nearly six years with help from the Masonic Home’s Long-Term Financial Assistance Program.
Shortly after his wife passed away in 2020, Cecil’s need for care began to increase. In 2022, he moved to an assisted living facility with continued financial assistance from the Masonic Home. He says the moves to independent and assisted living would have been “impossible” without financial assistance from the Masonic Home.
“It’s a wonderful resource,” Cecil says. “This is brotherhood for real.”
What Have I to Dread, What Have I to Fear
Sister Orvella Wright, who is only a couple of years from earning her 50-year Eastern Star pin, joined the Order of the Eastern Star in 1975 on her brother’s Masonic membership. Her husband, Robert, became a Mason in 1984. Orvella has served as Worthy Matron eight times and as District Deputy Grand Matron twice. Like Cecil, Orvella says she feels good about the charitable focus of Eastern Star — raising money and helping people. Participating in Eastern Star has allowed her to develop friendships with people she might not have met otherwise. Orvella says she especially values the unique bond she has with Eastern Star members — not just in her Chapter but all over the country.
“People will recognize my Eastern Star ring and strike up a conversation,” she says.
Orvella and Robert, her husband of 54 years, were high-school sweethearts in Centerville, Iowa. The two met in the school band where Robert played tuba and she played the snare drum. The couple married in 1957 and moved to Alabama where Robert was stationed in the National Guard. After his discharge, the couple returned to Iowa, and Robert began a career in retail management. They started a family and lived in several parts of the Midwest, eventually settling in Jefferson City where Robert worked for Kmart. Orvella says she held a number of jobs in the Jefferson City area and eventually retired from Capital Region Hospital, where she worked at the front desk and switchboard.
Robert passed away in 2011. Over time, as Orvella’s must-haves grew, she sought help from her family and friends. With the bonds she has created within Eastern Star, she knew she could lean on her Sisters for social support, such as transportation to medical appointments and to Eastern Star events.
“We’re part of a family. We’re sisters and brothers,” she says. “If you have a problem, they’re all there for you.”
Though she readily accepted support from her Eastern Star Sisters, Orvella understands that it can be hard to ask for help, especially for those who are accustomed to being helpers themselves. She says she felt that reluctance when she needed hearing aids, the cost of which was more than she could afford. Orvella says she had known of the financial assistance from the Masonic Home for a long time, especially for medical needs, but she still struggled to reach out. It was a suggestion from trusted family — an Eastern Star Sister — that prompted Orvella to contact the Masonic Home for help to purchase the hearing aids. For Orvella, the Masonic Home’s confidentiality policy and the friendly staff increased her comfort level. “Don’t be ashamed,” she says. “You don’t have to tell anyone you’re getting help.”
Long-Term Financial Assistance: Helping Clients Stay Safe and Secure
“It can be a challenge to ask for help, but if I can’t help myself, I have to ask for help,” Cecil says. He credits the Masonic Home’s financial assistance caseworkers for making him feel more comfortable about reaching out for help.
“Forget about being embarrassed, and don’t be afraid,” he says. “If they’re worried that people might look down on them, don’t worry about that.”
Like Cecil, Shirley says the Masonic Home’s caseworkers are supportive and upbeat, and she can count on them to take care of problems and talk through her concerns.
“I don’t worry, because I know you’re there,” she says.
Both Shirley and Orvella say they have talked with others about the assistance they have received from the Masonic Home, encouraging them to reach out.
“If they need help, ask for it,” Shirley says. At Chapter meetings, Orvella has shared her experience with financial assistance for hearing aids, encouraging her Sisters to seek help when they need it.
“I know it’s there if I need something,” she says. “People don’t realize that it’s there for them, too.”
Cecil says older Masons and their loved ones should know about the assistance available from the Masonic Home so they can get the help they need.
“The assistance from the Masonic Home has brought me comfort,” he says. “With any problem, I know I can call the staff, and they will help me.” He says that he has always been proud to be a Mason, and he is even more proud now after his experience as a client of the Masonic Home of Missouri.
For Cecil, Shirley, and Orvella, leaning on the Masonic Home of Missouri for financial assistance extends the bonds of the fraternity. All three know they can rely on their Masonic Brothers and Sisters for the services and care they will need for the long term. Their worries are alleviated and replaced with comfort and security. Peace can be found in the out-stretched arms of Brotherly Love.