{ADDRESS OF THE MOST WORSHIPFUL WILLIAM M. SARDONE, Grand Master of Masons in the State of New York, at the 238th Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge, in the Grand Lodge Room, Masonic Hall, 71 West 23rd Street, in the City of New York, on Monday May 6, 2019.}

RW Deputy Grand Master, MW Past Grand Masters, Elected and Appointed Members of the Grand Line, Distinguished East and most importantly, you, the members of the Grand Line. Good morning!

Let me say right away, that serving you this year has been a profound honor. Having the opportunity to listen to you, work with you, and be part of your team is invigorating.

I have driven 6 hours one way to a lodge meeting and back home the same night. I have been stashed in a vending soda room of a nursing home to surprise a 70-year member (top hat and all) and more. And all these moments are memorable.
I have said it many times. I am a lucky man.

I am lucky to be able to work with RW Richard Kessler, Deputy Grand Master. We have a warm friendship that has resulted in coordinated planning and successes. This friendship has also reached into our family lives as well.
R. W. Richard Schulz, Grand Secretary and I work well together. We have pooled our corporate experiences to reshape how we serve you. While there is more to do, I have heard very positive reviews of how this office is now working.
The Grand Secretary will expand on our progress in his report. Coupling RW Richard Schulz, with RW Richard Bateman in this office has brought historical knowledge and long-range planning into a forward-thinking environment.
While the Deputy Grand Master has been tackling 990’s, the Senior Grand Warden RW Charles Roberts has brought the widow’s program back and RW Oscar Alleyne has been revising our Public Relations Material.

There is no doubt in my mind you have all felt the impact of RW Richard Friedman, Grand Lecturer. His energy is without limit. Being a Marine, you are fortunate that you were not doing pushups at your conventions. Later during his report, we will see something that he is known for. Ritual.

RW Paul Huck, Judge Advocate and RW Michael Postiglione, Proctor have important roles. Both have been patient with me as I look for answers and paths to help lodges and our fraternity.

The Trustees of our Masonic Hall and Home have been strong partners in our progress. … We have had a process of sprinkler systems installed throughout our Masonic Hall. This building is over 100 years old. Ceilings made of plaster, metal lath, bricks and concrete. Opening holes in the ceilings with the hope of sliding a conduit to an entry point was met with barriers, supports and more. Consequently, we had many punctures in our walkways and rooms. But as you walk through out the halls you will have a hard time finding any sign of this work. All is restored under the watchful eyes of our Trustees. I am sure those who came in on the 23rd street side saw the scaffolding. There is constant upkeep on the inside and the outside and they watch it all.

In addition they manage our Masonic Campus in Utica, NY, Camp Turk in the Adirondacks, DeWitt House in Tappan and more. We all owe them a big thank you.

You may say that it is nice that this building receives so much attention. As a quick reminder, a good portion of this building has tenants with leases and pay for and deserve these updates. We are also fortunate that many outside firms and movie studios use our facilities. If we don’t keep this building up to date, we will lose revenue. The Trustees do a remarkable job of maintaining our locations.

I am not blind to your needs in your home towns and have made up to $2000 available for each lodge building to have security. I heard a rumor that it was felt I was slinging around $1 million dollars. Let’s be honest. When you narrow it down, most buildings have multiple lodges meeting in them, this building alone has dozens. And some buildings have already taken a proactive stand and have already protected their locations. Thus far 20 locations have taken me up on this option. Some needed the entire $2,000; most need less than half of this. Why have I made this offer available to you? Do I need to show you the news? Violence targets malls, movie theaters, houses of worships. When you look at their venues, we are in the same “open door category.”

When there is an issue, communities get together and talk about stopping hate. Until hatred stops, I want to keep haters outside of our lodges. How? How about locking our doors? Video at the doors that can be seen by the secretary or a designated person. DVR’s that keep track of activity that protect you and your property. RW Tony Adamo, Grand Tiler has used his skill and expertise in tracking and helping.

Those that have taken advantage have had to do the following: Take a picture of before, take a picture of the after and send me the receipts. That is it.

I will extend this program for 6 more months. Also, this is not funded by the Trustees. This is coming directly from my budget.

The Masonic Medical Research Institute is reaching global proportions. It is a good thing that ribbon is not expensive, because we cut a lot of them with their continued progress, breakthroughs and innovations. As Grand Master I am helping to open doors around the world for this one of a kind Institute that bears the Masonic Branding. Their Directors continue to work with our Grand Lodge in their endeavors and I am thankful for their dedication.

The Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library has seen new outreach as the Trustees work to bring the library to you (see picture of library). If you don’t know by now, of the ten’s of thousands of objects and volumes in our possession, one is this letter signed by Brother George Washington. And this is just a sample. We have a Branch in Utica, NY as well and our Trustees are bringing on new members to open that site to all as well. Thank you, Trustees.

When you have a chance, visit these locations. And thank them.

The Grand Lodge of Scotland. As was indicated prior to this term we are not in Amity with this Grand Lodge at this time. Through various means around the world, three New York Expelled Masons managed to become Masons in Good Standing in the Grand Lodge of Scotland. The good news is that a positive dialogue has been launched between our Grand Secretary, their Grand Master Mason, their Grand Secretary and me. The actions that brought us to this juncture happened prior to their elections and we are hopeful that we can come to a resolution. But in the meantime, there is no change.

This year we took a 70 plus questionnaire that the DDGM’s were filling out and faxing or scanning and reduced it to a about 20 questions. Fillable online. RW Scott Peat, Grand Standard Bearer has been following up with you on these.
We reduced some of the churn, concern and emotional stress involving the Lodge merger and consolidation paperwork. In some cases, the lodges were waiting a year or more and RW James Kintzel, who is the Chairman of the Charters Committee and his team have gotten the process down to a few months, depending on the amount of assets of the lodges.
We are fortunate to have a District of Lodges in Syria-Lebanon that are New York Masons and have been working hard for decades. And now we were petitioned by three lodges to form the Grand Lodge of Lebanon. This is not the average request that a Grand Master routinely receives. So what does a Grand Master do? Consult other Grand Masters, which is exactly what I did.

Your Past Grand Masters and I had many, many calls and meetings to discuss the proper path that meets international Masonic protocol. They in turn went to their global resources and we made the decision to Charter them. We had a ceremony here at 23rd street. Past Grand Master Jeffrey Williamson and I then flew to Beirut, Lebanon. Two days to get there, on their soil for 2 days and flew two days back home. While there we consecrated the Grand Lodge of Lebanon on their soil. We also installed their first Grand Line and I was honored to install MW Raffy Timonian as their first Grand Master. They have already received dozens of Jurisdictions recognizing them.

There is a key factor in what I just said. And that is turning to our Past Grand Masters for wisdom and guidance. While I look to many people for advice, there are some subjects that only a Grand Master would have dealt with and only a Grand Master could help with. They are there when I need them. They are there when you need them. Thank you, Grand Masters.

You wanted a Cruise. You got a Cruise. Thank you RW Richard Springer who put together a cruise to Bermuda for this July. He booked cabins and all are sold out.

But let’s get to some harder things. Membership.

I have gone to conferences and listened to white papers and speeches. In almost all situations, the speakers said we had to do “something.” I kept waiting for what that something is .. .and it never came. I would have been happy to hear about a failed program that maybe we could have adapted, tweaked and utilized.

Let’s be honest. No matter what we do, unless we make quality members we diminish. As such, I have asked RW David Menegon, Senior Grand Deacon to think out of the box. Because your Grand Lodge is going to do “something.”
The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite commissioned a company to find out what was wrong with Masonry. Results. Nothing is wrong. It is our Marketing that is almost nonexistent. Hearing this it became clear to RW Menegon and to me. We consulted with new talent within our craft and did special targeting on social media.

Thanks to the friendship of MW Paul Gleason, Massachusetts Grand Master, we launched [an] ad. Our ads have a 200% better response rate than the industry standard.

We launched a new website called DiscoverMasonry.com and we used free Facebook ads pushing to that website. At that time through the “free” venue we were averaging 98 inquiries per month. Some of these inquiries were from out of state and country, which trimmed down good numbers.

Paying for targeted ads has increased our inquiries to over 200 a day to our website. You are probably saying “I have not seen them.” And you won’t. You are already masons. I am not going to pay for your click.

When you do the math it sounds like a lot. And it is a lot. Between the Facebook ads, the Northstar Program, your own personal outreach efforts, we see at least 25 lodges with double digit prospects being vetted. The lowest being 10 and the highest being 50. And this is across the jurisdiction.

These efforts sift down into quality members and we see Liverpool Syracuse Lodge with 10 new members, Connetquot and Norseman with 10, Jeptha 13, Holland 14, Kane 14, Great Kills 14 and Joshua 19. 250 lodges raised new members. And based on the West Gate background check numbers there are between 400-500 candidates who are either waiting for Degrees or who are Entered Apprentices or Fellowcrafts.

But think about it. As a new “generation” of men become masons, they will be setting the future direction and will bring their friends in. We can then step back from the advertising and reduce that cost. This cost us zero. But you get the idea. Your Grand Lodge of New York is doing something and we are already seeing a trajectory that can take us into positive territory.
To add to your Grand Lodge, we may once again break a record by issuing 4 new Charters for 4 new Lodges. And at least one more new one in the coming months… possibly two. And they have candidates in waiting.

I met with the Membership Chair of the Imperial Shrine and we have a plan to partner on ads here in New York.
DeMolay is in its 100th year. Thanks to your Grand Lodge this start of the celebration was not lost as we have dedicated a window in our lobby to this organization. The International Master Councilor Avery Brinkley was here from California and our own Deputy State Master Councilor Austin Altman participated in a ribbon cutting and proclamation presentation.
We all know that a Greenhouse at the Masonic Care Community was selected as our special charity this year. Your support has been beyond expectations and we are just at the beginning.

Some wondered if this was going to really happen. Well, on March 16, 2019 we had a full Cornerstone Laying Ceremony in the building that the Greenhouse will be attached to. We actually filled all of the seats to capacity.

A time capsule you ask? Well, we have a time capsule that will be cemented into the footing of this building. If you want something in this time capsule, bring it to St. John’s Weekend. And in case anyone has not heard, your Grand Lodge was the first Grand Lodge on the planet to host a live telethon for 1 hour and fifteen minutes. This tied into my view of marketing. I broadcasted live from our Masonic Care Community (see picture of stage) where I interviewed the heads of our various Masonic endeavors. At various times we switched to our Masonic Hall on the 2nd floor where people lined up with checks. We had Lodges “dial in” with their well wishes and donations. We were viewed by tens of thousands of people. This was unfiltered and anyone could watch. Six countries viewed us. I brought in the video crews who handled broadcasts for me when I was at AT&T, RW Edward Bartels, Grand Marshal and his wife Cathie and son Kevin worked right up until show time with editing videos. We had no rehearsal and it went live.

All money raised went for Masonic Charities that were through the Masonic Brotherhood Fund. How much was raised? Well… prior to the Telethon we had about $300,000. Today we have $1.1 million dollars and tomorrow R.W. Bruce Testut the Masonic Brotherhood Fund Chairman will continue this charge by accepting checks right here on the floor of Grand Lodge. So what are we going to do next for the Greenhouse.

Well, we are going to launch two things. We are setting aside a room in the Greenhouse for model railroaders. We already have a resident at the MCC who has a small layout and we will expand this into a club on the premises. And we will be selling bricks. More on that in the coming weeks.

St. John’s Days are scheduled for June 20, 21, 22, and 23. Plan on attending with us. Last year we had a concert in the Stanley Theater and charged for admittance. This year on the Thursday night of St. John’s we will once again have a concert with the RBC band. They are renowned for being a duplicate of the Beatles. And it will be on the lawn of the Masonic Care Community for FREE. Thank you Trustees of the Masonic Home and Directors of the Institute. Oh… and on Friday there is a picnic, and fireworks courtesy of our Masonic Hall and Home Trustees.

My wife and daughter have nice things planned for the ladies, which will center on being heart-healthy. Remember, this is a family weekend. So, put it on your calendar and bring the whole family.

So what is next? Well … you are continuing your support of the Greenhouse. So maybe it is time to do some of the things we do best.

This is our Time… We are ratcheting up our awareness. We have shown the world that New York Masonry is not afraid. This indeed is our Time. And this is my report as the Grand Master of Masons in the State of New York.

MW William M. Sardone
Grand Master of Masons in the State of New York