[Web-master's note: My mother lodge initiated two black members this past Wednesday night. All of America, not just Masonry, is recovering from more than 120 years of post-Emancipation legal and social apartheid, and if Masonry is not leading the pace, it is not falling behind either. So-called "white lodges" are becoming integrated in nearly every state of the union, except perhaps in some impervious parts of the Old Confederacy, and even there things are changing with time.
Mainstream Masons are allowed in the Eastern Star because the organization was established to be co-ed by its founders. Women are perfectly free to join two branches of Masonry: women's-only and mixed (co-ed). There are options for everyone. My friend's wife is a steward in her Masonic lodge (Masonic, not OES) and he and I cannot attend her meetings. Cose fan tutti!
Regarding community service: perhaps Masons do more than they brag about. Masons in the US give 2 million dollars each day to charity. Masons are the primary supporters of the Shriners Hospitals (all Shriners are Masons) -- those hospitals treat severly burned or crippled children from around the world in a network of US hospitals, and the patient and their families have never ever been charged a single penny for the surgery, medication, other treatments, follow-up, counselling, and community service that helps their recovery! Masons also support a Schizophrenia research foundation, a new literacy program for children with dyslexia and related syndromes, and several other medical charities. Masons are the majority of blood donors in nearly every state in the country. The Scottish Rite Masons endowed, created, and support the National Heritage Museum of the US in Lexington, Mass. Masons are the primary volunteers and financial support for a lost-child prevention program called CHIP. And in my town of Malden, Mass, the Masons run a Supplied Medical Device program that loans wheelchairs, crutches, invalid home-care supplies, walkers, and more to anyone in the local area who comes in to borrow them, absolutely free of charge. And that list is just off the top of my head. You might want to ask around -- you'll be surprised at what the Masons are doing to support your community.
Thanks for writing!]
[Web-master's note: Bro. Joe, The SMD medical equipment loan service is indeed a fine community service and I too am proud to be a supporter of it. I don't know if any other group of lodges in the world has anything similar. If any member of one of the SMD lodges would like to write up a summary of the service, I would post it at this web-site for the inspiration of other lodges around the world. In the meantime, you probably should contact the GL of IL to ask about any Chicago-area lodges that might be able to help]
[Web-master's note: Yes, you should specifically say, "Hi, I'd like to join." That's a secret Masonic code for "Hi, I'd like to join."]