Tomorrow (June 15, 2021) marks the conclusion of Scottish Rite, NMJ's 2021 Valley of Excellence census year. The Valley of Excellence award recognizes Valleys in the Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction who go above and beyond in their endeavors. With focuses on areas of membership, service/philanthropy, leadership development, and operations, this program encourages Valleys to deliver a premier Scottish Rite experience.

To provide inspiration for future Valleys of Excellence, Brother Dwight Damschroder, 32°, Secretary for the Valley of The Firelands shares with us how his Valley managed to be the very first to achieve a perfect Valley of Excellence score. This guest blog post comes straight out of The Firelands' playbook, so be sure to take notes!


Some have been asking what the Valley of The Firelands was doing to be successful in the Valley of Excellence program. These are my opinions as to why we have had success. First and foremost, our leadership was looking at many of the very things outlined in Valley of Excellence while creating this Valley (which was just established at Annual Session in 2018).

Membership

The area of our primary operation is between two Valleys (Toledo and Cleveland) which is, in a sense, an underserved area in Ohio, being mostly rural. To be involved we had to travel large distances and seldom saw Valleys come to our temples far from their base.

We hold events throughout the Valley most months. We do degrees 9 months of the year. We hold three reunions in the Valley and a single degree, along with the 4th degree, and we hold degrees at two locations. We also work to ensure we hold one of those monthly events at a lodge that is wheelchair accessible. With this format, we have scheduled all degrees to be presented every 36 months. Holding events at temples throughout our Valley has helped us and also the lodges in our Valley.

Philanthropy

Members increased giving by over 400 percent as we spent more time publicizing the Blue Envelope [campaign] through email and our Valley website.

Communication

We have built a Valley website showing a calendar of events, as well as links to the NMJ and other Valleys. For our members, it lets them know if we are doing a degree they need. When they register for an event, they also receive reminders.

Our communication is a key to our success. Our members get used to checking the site more and more regularly to stay up to date. We have less than 10 members without computer access, but we have people contacting those individuals regularly to make sure they do not miss anything.

Family Life Events

This one starts with two events annually to recognize people (widows, 33rds and MSA nominees, and other award winners) but we also started thinking out of the box with an Oktoberfest, which is a fun event that is also a fundraiser for scholarships and things like costumes for the Valley.

We also started movie night once a month, which helps gain recognition in the lodge and we look to help bring it to more lodges in the Valley in coming years.

Ice cream cruise ins in the spring/summer months have been a great way to start the weekends for the families coming out. We also have lots of great places across the Valley to visit.

Education

Education is also a core value for us. Our degree docents not only oversee presentation of degrees but we also give education prior to the degrees and set the background so as they watch the degree, they have a better understanding of what is going on in the degree. We have had many visitors from other Valleys give us very positive feedback of the presentation and the degree.

Also during the two months we do not hold a degree, we have educational programs and bring in speakers. This summer, for example, we are having the 1917 version of the 4th degree and other educational programs. These have been very popular and even brings in people from other Valleys.

Scottish Rite Pride

You will see many of our members have black suit jackets with the Lagosh Eagle embroidered on it to show their pride. We have a pin for when members complete 10 degrees, lanyards with a charm when they are first-line signers of five members, and lanyard attachments for each five thereafter. We have other awards as well.

These are but a few things we have been doing. We have a lot of people with different talents. We are trying to use that talent while working to let them expand on ideas and leverage people and programs to increase effectiveness and in turn, enthusiasm.

We are going all over the area and have done degrees in all but five (by my count) of the 45 temples in our footprint, but we should be down to two by year's end. We want to keep members busy and active especially during the first two years because if we can keep them in those first formative years, we can keep them working and active. If not, there is a good chance we will lose them. This attitude has kept us growing even through the pandemic.

Our motto is to Connect, Learn and Grow, and that's what we have been working to do since day one.