By Beth Grace

Mason Editor

We are blessed.

From our senior home in Greens- boro to our children’s home in Oxford, the sentiment is the same: “We are blessed.”

Administrators, board leadership and staff of both homes have been on the job in person and in spirit 24-7 since the coronavirus prompted isolation orders and rigorous health and safety measures back in March.

The work has been hard and the hours long.

Some decisions have been heart- breakers: The annual Masonic Home for Children Homecoming in October has been canceled for the year.

And the residents themselves have pitched in to help make these months of isolation, and quarantine that have turned us all into home- bodies a little easier and less socially distant.

At WhiteStone, our Masonic and Eastern Star home, staff has worked long hours to find ways to keep residents interested, entertained and

Isolation is hard on everyone

in normal times, says Adminis- trator Mark Lewis. So it has been
a priority to help residents find reasons to smile. Outdoor concerts, impromptu parades (complete with a wandering T-Rex) and special visit stations have been set up to help residents stay in touch – from a safe distance – with their families.

A parade in June had residents perched on chairs outside while their families drove through one by one, cars all decked out in posters, flags, flowers and photos of their much loved residents.

Residents and staff have formed a council that discusses how things are going and works to help keep things running smoothly.

With the easing of some state restrictions has come the return of some favorite services, Lewis said.

“Our salon services have reopened, following all state and local requirements,” he said with a smile. “This has generated a lot of excitement.”

With eased rules, residents are

allowed to travel off-campus, but Lewis says all efforts are aimed at keeping residents on site, to ensure that the protocols keeping White- Stone free of COVID-19 stay strong.

Some 85 miles to the northeast, similar efforts are keeping the kids at MHCO happy and busy – and the kids are paying it forward.

The new pool is open and oper- ating under strict health guidelines. Same goes for the gym, playgrounds, and bike rides.

The children are part of the effort, says Tina Gilreath, MHCO donor relations coordinator.

They have signed on to become pen pals with WhiteStone residents – including one resident of White- Stone who grew up at what was then called Oxford Orphanage.

“We really appreciate White- Stone reaching out to suggest this wonderful connection between our residents,” she said.

“It does everyone a lot of good.”

School plans are being finalized, now that Gov. Roy Cooper has announced the plan for the return to

school in August. In the meantime, Summer Enrichment – a program designed to keep elementary school kids learning during the break – was happening under the Picnic Shelter and in the gym in bad weather.

Groups are small to provide social distancing.

The plan for this year’s Home- coming was complete and ready to go, said MHCO Administrator Kevin Otis. But the case rates in the state made it impossible to go forward.

“We just couldn’t take that chance,” Otis said. “But you can bet we’ll be ready for next year – mark your calendar for Oct. 8 through 10!”

In the meantime, the work of our charities will go on.

“We continue to focus on the positives and opportunities this situ- ation has provided. Staff and resi- dents are serious about doing their part to help keep all safe," he said.

“The campus is active with laughter and play.”

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