THE Royal Freemasons' Benevolent Institution (RFBI) was built on the philosophy "for the sake of the poor -� of our own obligations -� and of the credit of the order, it is hoped that a generous and universal support will be accorded to an institution whose function will be to provide succour in distress and relief in necessity".
This philosophy is still the backbone of the RFBI today.
The organisation aims to provide support and assistance of the highest calibre to those who need it, as well as being a leading aged care provider.
The Freemasons' Benevolent Institution, as it was originally known, was founded in 1880 and originally assisted needy masons and senior citizens with monthly payments through its annuity scheme.
The scheme is still in practice, along with the Benevolence Assistance Program, where special cases of need are identified, assessed and assistance granted.
In the aftermath of World War II as social services were slowly brought into practice, the Freemasons' Benevolent Institution (FBI) assistance became less essential, but a need remained.
RFBI chief executive officer Alex Shaw said the organisation purchased and operation Shortland Hospital for 30 years before venturing into aged care in 1972, including more recently at the Alf Herrmann Lodge in Leeton.
"(Aged care) is now the primary mainstay of the organisation as we operate aged care facilities across 23 sites in NSW and the ACT," he said.
"In 1984, the royal prefix was added to the title of FBI when the Queen, acknowledging the work of the (organisation) over the past 100 years, granted the use of the term 'royal'.
"Since then our organisation has been known as the Royal Freemasons' Benevolent Institution or RFBI."
LODGINGS TO SUIT RANGE OF NEEDS
CONSTRUCTION of the Leeton Masonic Village started in 1998, with the building of six independent living villas in Karri Road completed in 2000.
The first residents moved in shortly afterwards.
In 2003, the village was expanded to include four, two-bedroom independent living villas.
Doctor Gregory Levensten officially named the Albert Trembath Villas at the foundation laying ceremony in 2009.
In 2008, building works started on a residential care hostel next door to the villas, providing 50 beds for low and high care residents.
Red Gum House, a dementia specific unit, offers 26 of these beds.
Dr Levensten officially named the residential care hostel the Alf Herrmann Lodge at the foundation laying ceremony in 2009.
The facility was opened in 2010 by NSW Governor Professor Marie Bashir.
The first residents entered the facility in early 2010.
GENEROSITY IN HISTORY
IN 1968 ambulance officer Edgars Lideman identified the need for a retirement village in Newcastle and approached businessman and prominent Mason, Albert Hawkins, for a donation.
He donated 45 acres to the Freemasons' Benevolent Institution and the first building, Rose Court, comprising 54 independent living units was completed in 1972.
This site is now home to one of the Royal Freemasons' Benevolent Institution's (RFBI) primary aged care facilities, comprising 131 aged care beds, 207 self-care units and 10 community aged care packages.
RFBI chief executive Alex Shaw said the RFBI had responded to the needs of an ageing population.
"We have diversified our caring and benevolent role through the establishment of aged care facilities throughout regional NSW, including the village at Leeton, which was founded in 1998 and comprises 10 self-care units and 50 bed residential care facility," he said.
"Our organisation now owns and operates nursing homes, hostels and retirement villages, and cares for over 2600 elderly residents including 46 at the Leeton Masonic Village."
QUALITY CARE A PRIORITY
ROYAL Freemasons' Benevolent Institution (RFBI) chief executive officer Alex Shaw believes the organisation's primary role in aged care will continue to expand.
"Our main goal is to provide support to the ageing population to allow them to age with dignity and to cater for the special needs of the elderly," Mr Shaw said.
"(This) includes those people suffering from dementia-related diseases.
"In the last year the RFBI has donated $100,000 to a special dementia research project, undertaken by Griffith University, towards the treatment and care of the disease."
The RFBI is a public company and not part of the Freemasons' Grand Lodge. Although the organisation shares the Masonic philosophy of helping those in need, the staff and volunteers at any of the villages do not need to be masons to be employed by the company.
Similarly, residents do not need to be a mason to receive care.
For more information about the RFBI in Leeton contact Alf Herrmann Lodge general manager Judith Dahlenburg on 6953 9300.