By Beth Grace

NC Masonic Foundation Communications Director

Nathan Williams never wanted anyone to know how generous he was. Turns out, everyone knew it. They just never let on.

The 57-year Mason, who died five years ago at 89, left behind a legacy of generosity that changed – and continues to change -- countless lives. He gave to others in need often, always in secret, and as Scripture recommends: with one hand not knowing what the other was doing.

But his brothers at Holly Springs #115 have long felt that it’s only right that their beloved past master, this generous benefactor to all who were in need is recognized in a way he might have (reluctantly) approved.

“He always made it a point to help others, who for whatever reason could not help themselves. And he never ever wanted the limelight for anything he did for anybody, never asked for anything,” says lodge Past Master Tim Merritt. “He would specifically tell people: ‘Do not put my name out there for doing whatever it is I'm doing.’”

So how would he feel about this charitable endowment being named in his honor?

“Well, I expect he’d be fussing at us about it,” Master Stephen Curry says with a smile. “But I hope he’d be happy with what we’re trying to do.”

The lodge, working with the North Carolina Masonic Foundation, has created The Nathan Williams Memorial Charitable Endowment, an account that will grow to support the award of an annual grant to a non-profit community organization that serves Holly Springs.

This is the first North Carolina lodge to create an endowment dedicated to helping its community.

The lodge, just back to meeting regularly again and ready to rejoin the community, in March announced the endowment and treated the community to an open house, a tour of the beautifully restored and maintained lodge, and a free bowl of some very tasty Brunswick Stew.

More such events, welcoming the public into the lodge, may be scheduled.

Becoming more involved in our communities is one of the goals of Grand Master Larry Thompson’s theme of “Masonic Revival.”

“Holly Springs has the exact right idea,” MW Thompson says. “Becoming part of our communities in a vital and interesting way like this – in such a way that it truly helps others and raises the profile of our local Masonic lodges -- is a wonderful way to show that Masons are truly great neighbors who believe in putting philanthropy first.”

A committee of Holly Springs brethren will, each year, accept applications from area non-profit organizations and review the requests. A percentage of the endowment will be set aside to send to our charities, and a percentage to cover the grants. At least one award will be given each year. Depending on how the market behaves, more might be given as the invested fund grows. The committee will recommend which organizations should receive an award and the full lodge will cast the final vote.

Creating the endowment and working on renewing a relationship with the community are high priorities for Holly Springs brothers, Merritt says.

“When I ask new brothers why they want to be Masons, I would say 99 percent of them always say they want to give back to the community. We all really have a heart to do something for the community,” he says.

“We have struggled in the past a little bit to keep a solid line of communication … there are a thousand different reasons why that is, but we have all talked seriously about making this the time to strengthen that relationship.”

And that’s something Brother Nathan Williams would have welcomed, they said. If someone was in trouble, if there was something in need of repair, if there was anyone in need – he would be somewhere in the background, fixing the problematic, repairing the broken, filling needs of those who had nothing.

Now, in thanksgiving for a generous brother gone, the lodge will try as best it can to keep his legacy alive and to follow his good example.

Interested in finding ways your lodge can connect with your community? Contact us at the NC Masonic Foundation. We have ideas and we want to hear yours! Email Chief Development Officer George Marut at gmarut@mfnc.org or Director of Development Chris Richardson at crichardson@mfnc.org.

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