It’s a building that’s been located on a busy Wilmington street for more than 100 years. But it’s also a building that many residents in town may be unfamiliar with.
On Saturday, Wilmington’s branch of Freemasons will hold an open house at the Friendship Lodge, hoping to spread the word to what exactly the group does.
“For most people who have lived in town their entire life, it’s a building they’ve probably driven by 1,000 times but they’ve never stopped to look inside,” said Masonic Ambassador Jesse Plouffe. “Open houses have done a lot for bringing people into the building. You don’t have to have a distinct interest in masonry, but you may want to stop inside. We encourage everyone to come by.”
There are currently about 180 members of the Wilmington Freemason chapter. Freemasons are the oldest fraternal organization in existence, coming to Massachusetts in 1733.
In order to join the group, residents must be a male older than 18 years old who is not an atheist.
“Everything we do is virtually unchanged in 300 years,” said Plouffe. “We do and say the same things as when George Washington became a mason.”
Freemasons participate in a variety of charitable activities throughout the year. In addition to regular blood drives with American Red Cross, the group also runs a Hospital Equipment Loan Program (HELP) out of Malden that allows anyone in the community to borrow equipment for free and return it when they’re done with it.
But the largest charitable connection comes with the Shriners Hospital for Children Network, which is funded by the Freemasons who donate about $3 million nationally per day.
Saturday’s open house runs from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Friendship Lodge, which can be found at 32 Church Street.
“We all consider ourselves to be brothers, and that extends beyond the bounderies of our lodge and state,” said Plouffe. “There are countless stories of how brothers have stepped in and helped other brothers who had no connection other than masonry. It’s a major foundation of what we do, and everyone who is a mason values that.”