By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Grafton – A nonprofit youth service organization for preteen boys and young men based at the Franklin Masonic Lodge in North Grafton is overseen by two men with 30 years of experience with DeMolay. Serving since the founding of the Benjamin Franklin DeMolay (BFD) chapter are Michael Leonard as chair and Don Cargill as advisor. They first met while participating in DeMolay during their youth, Cargill noted.
“We were both Senior DeMolays at the same time,” he said. “We’ve known each other since we were kids.”
The BFD chapter recently marked the fifth anniversary of its first installation. There are currently 38 members, most from Grafton. Others live in Marlborough, Mendon, Millbury and Southborough.
According to the BFD Facebook page, “DeMolay is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preparing young men to lead successful, happy and productive lives. Basing its approach on timeless principles and practical hands-on experiences, DeMolay opens doors for young men aged 12 to 20. They help develop civic awareness, personal responsibility and leadership skills so vitally needed in today’s society. DeMolay combines this serious mission with a fun approach that builds important bonds of friendship among members in more than 1,000 chapters worldwide.”
Before the BFD was founded, Cargill drove his three sons and four other boys to the John Eliot DeMolay in Natick. After about three years of commuting, Cargill and Leonard decided to start a chapter in Grafton. First, they began the two-step process known as letters temporary. They needed to get 15 active members and 10 adult advisors.
“We obtained our letters temporary in June of 2011,” Cargill explained. “We had 22 members by our first installation in November of 2011. It took us only nine months to get our charter in March of 2012. We are the fastest chartered chapter in the 95-year history of Massachusetts DeMolay.”
Typically, two BFD members attend an annual leadership training conference at Lions Camp Pride in New Durham, N. H. This past summer, the chapter could afford to enroll four members because of a grant received from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Attending the conference are DeMolay members from each New England state and the Atlantic Canada provinces.
“The conference gives them a chance to meet kids from all over the place and exchange ideas,” Cargill said. “It gives them the ability to learn about organization and planning stages for our events. They learn how to make phone calls to get in touch with the right person and figure the costs; then they present everything to the advisors.”
Among the BFD members’ community service projects is helping with the Masonic Youth Child Identification Program (MYChip). The program helps law enforcement authorities find and identify lost or missing children. Local DeMolay members volunteer for MYChip alongside representatives of the Masonic lodges of North Grafton and Westborough at the annual Night Out held in August in Grafton.
BFD members also volunteer for activities of the town’s recreation department including Grafton Celebrates the Holidays, Grafton Gazebo Road Race and a basketball program.
Meetings are held year-round the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at the Franklin Masonic Lodge, 55 N. Main St. Also held at the lodge is Game Night the third Wednesday of the month.
“We’re always looking for new members,” Cargill added. “It doesn’t matter where you come from or what your background is; the kids will all accept you. Parents are thankful that there’s this outlet for their kids to grow and mature at their own pace.”
For more information about DeMolay on the international, state and local levels, visit demolay.org, mademolay.org and facebook.com/BenjaminFranklinDeMolay. Contact the BFD chapter at [email protected].