It was in 1975 that RW Bros Andy van Niekerk and Geoff Burchell decided that the time had come where they were going to do something practical about addressing the accommodation needs of Senior Citizens. Having organised a very successful series of Balls on behalf of the Royal Air Force Association, Geoff proposed that Southern Division use the same formula. If necessary, he would underwrite any losses! The Spring Ball project was launched, an organising committee was formed – and the 1st Ball made a very satisfactory profit of R1,000.
The “3 Musketeers”, Geoff Burchell, Reg van der Merwe and George Gross then, very effectively, ran the Ball for the next 13 years and Geoff recalled having raised R180,000 over this period. In the early years the Ball was held at the Arthur’s Seat and Heerengracht Hotels but, as it grew to over 400 guests, a new venue had to be found and it was moved to its present home, the Goodwood Civic Centre. Geoff, Reg and George were continually looking for new ways to enhance the occasion and, of course, to raise more funds. George, for instance, introduced the Spring Ball Magazine in 1981 and continued as its Editor throughout the 1980s.
In 1987, Desmain Lodge was purchased and the dreams linked to the introduction of the 1st Ball had now turned into practical reality. A whole lot of new demands were placed on the Brethren involved in the “Masonic Homes for Seniors” project as we now had to maintain and administer a block of flats. The dream, however, continued to grow and the Brethren not only met this new challenge, but also started to explore new ways in which they could service the needs of less fortunate citizens.
It was important to introduce new blood into the project and, in 1986, R Wor Bros Alf Rhoodie and Graham Karstens were coopted to assumed responsibility for the running of the Masonic Spring Ball which had now become a traditional highlight on the local Masonic calendar. Their involvement would free the likes of Geoff Burchell and Andy van Niekerk to focus their attention on the task of looking after the Homes we now owned.
Alf and Graham are still very actively involved today and form part of a committee which is chaired by R Wor Bro Geoff Edwards (who has edited the Spring Ball Magazine since 1995) and includes R Wor Bro John Smith, Wor Bros Johann Haasbroek, Allan Singh and Ray Supra and Bros Louis Fourie and Anthony Mitchell.
Over the years the amounts raised have, of course, significantly increased and the 2010 Ball saw Southern Division raise, for the first time, a sum in excess of R100,000. We have continued to use this income to develop the project and now own a block of flats, 3 Masonic Abbeyfield houses and a Masonic Home for Quadriplegics.
While, in reality, very few Brethren have formally served on the Spring Ball Committee over the past almost 40 years, a great number of people have contributed to the success of this project. Every individual who has bought or sold adverts, made pledges, assisted at the evening itself or simply joined us at the Ball has played a part. These include our own Brethren and their partners, our Brothers from our sister Constitutions and many members of the public.
The Masonic Homes project is Southern Division’s way of expressing charity – and everybody who has contributed can take great pride in the results.
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