‘There is nothing better than helping someone who doesn’t know they have been helped.’

W Bro Mark Russell finds out more about the Chairman of the London Freemasons’ Charity These are the first words W Bro Stratton Richey PDepGSwdB said to me when we met in the café at Freemasons’ Hall to talk about his role as Chairman of the London Freemasons’ Charity.

His Twitter account profile describes Stratton as an ‘Airshow Commentator, volunteer Emergency Responder with the London Ambulance Service, flying instructor and examiner, and 747 Captain’.

I soon found out that this understates the very many strings he has to his bow.

Bro Stratton was Initiated into Freemasonry in Aviation & Combined Services Lodge No. 8504 in 1995. He had his first involvement in London Freemasonry in 1997 when he joined his old school lodge, Old Haileyburian and ISC Lodge No. 3912, where he was Installed as Master three years later.

In 2003 he was appointed as a Metropolitan Grand Steward.

In 1998 Stratton started a charity called “High Flight”, which gives underprivileged and disabled children the opportunity to take a flight in a glider. The flight provides these youngsters with something to smile about and is a break from the pressures they face. The charity also makes grants to the Flying Scholarships for Disabled People charity.

In 2004 RW Bro Russell Race, PMetGM asked him to head up London Freemasonry’s contribution to the RMBI Appeal, giving him a somewhat daunting target of raising £4 million. His title was London Appeal Director, and he soon became known as the LAD.

London freemasons donated £6.3million, and following on from this success, Stratton was appointed Metropolitan Grand Charity Steward in 2008, an office he held for the next six years. During his time in this position, he led the Cyberknife Appeal, which raised £2.5million to provide state of the art cancer-treating equipment for Bart’s Hospital.

In 2014 he had to take a step back from fundraising when appointed as a Metropolitan Grand Inspector. However, the charity was never far from his mind, and it was during his time as an Inspector that RW Bro Sir Michael Snyder, MetGM asked him to become a Trustee of the London Freemasons’ Charity (LFC), a duty he was pleased to accept.

At this point, our conversation turned to the work of the LFC and how our donations are put to good use to better the lives of Londoners in general, not just Freemasons.

Bro Stratton explained two distinct sides to the charity, major appeals such as the London Air Ambulance and the London Fire Brigade Turntable Appeals running alongside smaller donations made to more localised charities.

The Charity has 7 Trustees responsible for ensuring that all the legislation surrounding charities is complied with and deciding which requests for donations are accepted.

The LFC receives 3 or 4 requests every month, some from small charities and some from national organisations. Successful applications have to benefit Londoners.

The Trustees consider donation requests using their different skills. The financial specialists will conduct an in-depth review of the charity to ensure its finances are in order. For instance, a charity spending 80% of its income on administration expenses would probably not be considered a suitable recipient.

At the same time, other Trustees are looking at the more practical aspects of the donation, asking such questions as:

What does the charity do?

How will our donation be used?

How will it benefit the end-user?

The final consultation with the charity can change the decision if new information comes to light. The aim is to get grants to successful applicants as quickly as possible.

I asked Stratton how the charity had been affected over the past two years. He said that donations remained constant, but his concern was that income might drop. It is too early to tell how much this would affect them.

When asked how London Freemasons could help the LFC, he responded that donations were always welcome and suggested that if Lodges were holding funds in a Relief Chest, perhaps they could consider transferring some of the balance to the LFC. He stressed that whilst the LFC had to keep reserves, they distributed funds as quickly as possible.

He also reminded me that the LFC had a matched giving facility that allowed the Trustees to consider matching a donation made by the Lodge. He also said that if a Brother had a charity to support in London, the Trustees are happy to consider sponsored requests directly from the charity or through the Brother.

After two years as a Trustee, Stratton became Chairman of the Trustees, a post he has held for one year. There are no plans for a significant appeal at the moment, but this could change at any time. He said that he would like to increase the profile of the LFC and said that he and his fellow Trustees would welcome the opportunity to visit Lodges to give a presentation about the charity's work.

With the demise of his beloved 747, he finds himself on the B777 fleet, and during the downturn in aviation, he has enjoyed flying his Piper Arrow about the country. Having spent 2 hours in his company, it is evident that Stratton is passionate about Freemasonry and improving the lives of others through charitable activity. It is clear that he wants to make productive use of every hour of every day, and I am sure that when he retires from flying commercially, he will find a new charity project to fill any gaps in his diary.

He left me with a final message asking Brethren to remember the true meaning of the Nine O’Clock Toast to absent Brethren and suggest that, after each meeting we attend, each of us should randomly pick two names of missing Brethren and contact them to check that they are OK.

This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 47 January 2022 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.

Read more articles in the Arena Issue 47 here.