Each September, the Omaha Valley Scottish Rite makes special presentations, recognizing our 50-Year members and our UNO scholarship recipients. This year, nearly 100 Scottish Rite Masons and their ladies gathered to make the presentations, after enjoying a wonderful dinner of homemade lasagna, breadsticks and salad made by our Culinary Masters.
Jeffrey Coleman, 32° KCCH served as Master of Ceremonies for the evening for the Lodge of Perfection. Jeffrey called up Dick Corwine, 33° who began the evening with a presentation. Dick oversees the Almoner's Fund, a fund donated by Scottish Rite Masons, which anonymously makes donations to people in distress - it might be car repairs or paying a heating bill to avoid having utilities shut off, or possibly an airline ticket to visit a dying sibling. Being a bit slow this summer, Dick told us, he was making a donation to RiteCare for speech therapy. Receiving the donation was Dr. Amy Nordness, RiteCare Director at the UNMC Munroe-Meyer Institute.
General Secretary John Maxell, 33° called up Paul McManis and presented him with his 50-year certificate, pin, and dues card. Paul is a member of Centennial Lodge #326 and worked for the telephone company as a planning supervisor. He joined the Scottish Rite in April, 1967.
John then called Ethan Meirovitz and Chuck Davis where he presented them with their Perpetual Membership certificates, dues cards, and lapel pins. As Perpetual Members, they won't have to pay dues again. But more important, their perpetual membership goes into an endowment, on which the Valley will draw interest income in perpetuity. John also presented the 32° Patent to Louie James Viernes, who joined in the Spring, 2017 Reunion.
Bob Pelletier, 32° rose to recognize the teams of Line Officers who called Brethren in April and May to try to recover dues from delinquent Brethren. As a result of their calls, the Omaha Valley enjoys one of the lowest attrition rates due to Brethren not paying dues. Lee Terry, 33° accepted recognition for the Rose Croix officers, while Don Kavalec, 32° KCCH and Mike Precella, 32° were recognized for the most membership recoveries from the Consistory officers. As part of the contest for making the most calls and restoring the most Brethren to good standing, John awards "Maxell Bucks," which members can spend at the Scottish Rite in any way they want- dues, paying for dinners, or buying tickets to the Broadway shows. Lee Terry immediately turned his back in as a donation to the Scottish Rite Foundation of Omaha to much applause.
Afterward, John presented Bob Pelletier with a lapel pin and certificate for completing the Master Craftsman program, which is a course of six to eight self-study courses covering the history, philosophy, and symbolism of Scottish Rite degrees with a short essay for each class.
Personal Representative Paul Rutherford, 33° recognized the Valley of Omaha VMAP team. VMAP, the Valley Membership Achievement Project, represents the best practices to promote membership, engagement, involvement, and retention and was the product of members' input from around the Southern Jurisdiction at Leadership Workshops two years ago. Armel MacDonald, 32° KCCH, national VMAP committee member, and Don Kavalec and Lee Terry, representing the line officers, were called up as Paul presented the 2016 VMAP plaque to the Valley.
Last, Jeffrey recognized several of our 2017-2018 scholarship recipients. The Valley of Omaha has supported our future leaders for over 25 years with 13 $2,000 scholarships for merit and need-based UNO students, including a graduate student in Speech-Language Pathology. UNO Senior Abi Heller represented the students, speaking about her studies as a Neurosciences major, focusing on gerontology. The Scottish Rite grant has helped her continue studies, pursue grants, attend international conferences, volunteer with the Women's League of Voters, mentoring students with disabilities, and work with Omaha By Design.
"Thanks to the Scottish Rite, I am learning how to use these skills and passions to serve the community," Abi said.
Because of this grant enabling her to continue her studies at UNO, she has received an internship with NASA, studying communication and empathy between astronauts and ground control. "I will always be thankful to the Scottish Rite for the opportunity this scholarship has given me," she said.
The September 50-Year presentations and UNO scholarships is always one of the best attended evenings of the year - great dinner, great fellowship, and a wonderful opportunity to see first-hand the value of being a Scottish Rite Mason. Members came together to honor our own for extraordinary services to the Valley, as well as to meet tomorrow's leaders our philanthropy has funded for more than 25 years. Mark your calendars now for next year's dinner on September 17, 2018.