Darien masons preparing to increase role in the community
The Masons are a group with a substantial history, but it's a local chapter that's reinventing itself to give back to the community.
"The Masons wanted to hold real estate, so we acquired the Ivanhoe Lodge which had handed in its charter in 1883," Simari said.
Since its inception, the Darien Masonic Club has seen a variety of members including government officials, Chairman of the Finance and Audit Committee David Polett said.
"The backbone of the lodge was that it was a social function," Polett said. "Although we did tackle certain issues that were hot topics like Hitler's election in 1939."
"We weren't just sitting around playing cards."
Simari said that even though the club is primarily for members, there are events that are open to the public.
"We hold public lectures that bring people in off the streets," Simari said. "Recently, we've been infused with more young blood."
A more recent focus of the club is to begin hosting events that give back to the community, Simari said. Events would include partnering with Red Cross to do blood drives and holding CPR classes.
"We recently just started marching in the Memorial parade again which was something the club used to do in the past," Polett said. "We also give out four scholarships to high school students as well as sponsoring a Little League team."
Simari said the push to do more charitable work came as a result of the newer members who were joining and wanted to begin giving back to the community.
"There is an effort to return to doing events like marching and giving scholarships as well as focusing on charitable work," Simari said. "We would also like to let people know about our facility and that it's open 24/7 and we only use it for meetings."
Simari said the club organizes bell ringers for the Salvation Army during the holidays and the club has donated to Reach Across America as well as contributing to a flag pole project that was going on in town.
Both Simari and Polett agreed that the lodge was one of the best kept secrets in town.
"We used to be on the outskirts of town when the club first began but since then we moved more into the thick of things as the town expanded," Polett said.
Over the years, the club membership has seen more and more local members as opposed to the greater focus on out-of-town members, Simari said.
"It's a really interesting group that we have because we run the range from manual laborer to lawyers and teachers," Polett, who is also a retired teacher, said. "It's a nice mix of ages because we have guys who are older and then we have members who are in their 20s."
In order to join the Masons, you have to be 21 or older, male and believe in a higher power, Polett said.
"There are no restrictions on ethnicity or religion," Polett said. "It's a real leveler because we aren't an elitist group at all, everyone is equal."
Even the Darien News has ties to the Masonic Club because when the paper was still known as the Darien Review, the publisher was a member, Polett said.
Polett said members typically join the club to meet people who are similar to them. However, he did acknowledge that some join because of the mystery surrounding the free masons.
"I joined to explore masonry," Polett said.
Simari said he became a member in order to do more charitable work.
"This group isn't just for retirees," Simari said.
Joining the club leaves plenty of flexibility because members are encouraged to spend time with their families and focus on their work, Polett said.
"We have a code that says we will always help a mason," Polett said. "The history of the club in this town is so rich."
As the club continues to move forward, both Simari and Polett said they would like to broaden the club's influence in town as well as let people know that help does not have to be solely monetary.
The Darien Masonic Club is located at 354 Post Road and meetings take place on the fourth Wednesday of every month at 8 p.m.