Cooking for a Good Cause

Gift of Life Howie's House provides affordable lodging, meals and support services to those who travel to Philadelphia for transplant-related care. On a recent Sunday, members of Lodge No. 2, Philadelphia, prepared a meal for guests in the home's spacious kitchen. Cooking a meal together for a good cause is a perfect combination of fellowship and philanthropy, both important tenets of Freemasonry.

The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania has qualified for a second year in a row for the Home Cooked Heroes “All Star” Award, with all eight lodges in District D having volunteered to cook meals at Gift of Life Howie’s House.

Howie’s House, located in Philadelphia, provides affordable lodging, meals and support services to those who travel to Philadelphia for transplant-related care.

To win the award, lodges must cook 12 meals for patients and their families in a given calendar year. District D, which encompasses Philadelphia, is the only district with 100% participation by all the lodges. Because of this, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania received special recognition with a plate on the wall in the kitchen at Howie’s House. Lodges in Districts B and 8 have also participated.

“We have brothers from all over the country travel to Philadelphia for their life-saving organ transplant and when they see that a lodge is cooking, they feel at home,” said Brother Bill Soloway, director of the Masonic Blood+Organ Donor Program. “It’s all about Masons helping other Masons. And it’s not just limited to Masons; their families also get involved, as well.”

Dinner is served daily at 6 p.m., and brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. It’s more than just cooking a meal; it’s planning a healthy menu for the transplant patients, Bill said. All meals must consist of a salad, a protein and a vegetable. Volunteers must consider certain dietary restrictions to accommodate patients who are immunosuppressed.

On a recent Sunday in March, members of Lodge No. 2, Philadelphia, including Bill, were busily preparing dinner in the spacious kitchen. On the menu for the evening? Beef lasagna, macaroni and cheese, eggplant casserole and chicken and rice casserole. There was also salad, hamburgers and various desserts.

“They [the brothers] really look forward to this activity,” Bill said. “It’s one of those things where you can see the good work you’re doing because you’re serving the guests and seeing them smile.”

Bill likes to be on site whenever a lodge cooks a meal, especially if it’s their first time doing it. Brothers typically show up two hours before the meal is to be served to start preparing it. Bill gives them a tour of the kitchen and pantry, in case they forgot something from the grocery store. He also takes them on a tour of Howie’s House.

Bill, a heart transplant recipient himself, gives a brief presentation to guests about Freemasonry and his own transplant journey before dinner is served.

Brother Peter Lavelle, Worshipful Master for Lodge No. 2, was busily cooking chicken for a casserole while donning a special blue apron with the lodge’s name and logo. He said he really enjoys volunteering in the kitchen for a good cause.

“I’m a firm believer that everyone can put aside their differences when they sit down to a meal together,” he said. “Food brings fellowship. Also, there’s always someone with bigger concerns than I have. To cook for them hopefully makes their life better and puts a smile on their face. We [brothers] also get to socialize and build fraternal bonds working on a cause greater than ourselves.”

Philadelphia has the number one organ procurement program in the country, with numerous transplant centers located at hospitals in the area. Bill helped start the dining program at Howie’s House in 2020. In addition to cooking a meal in the kitchen, brothers can also drop off food or donate money for a meal.

Timothy Smith , of upstate New York, is a double lung recipient since December 2022. He and his wife, Jackie, [pictured below] were staying at Howie’s House and enjoyed the most recent meal catered by Lodge No. 2. The Smiths travel more than five hours at least once every three months to check Timothy’s blood counts at Temple University Hospital and make sure he’s not rejecting the organs.

“Being here [at Howie’s House] has been a godsend,” Timothy said. “Being from a small country town, coming here [to Philadelphia] was very overwhelming, but everyone on staff is super accommodating. When I was in the hospital, Jackie stayed here at Howie’s House. The food is wonderful, and it feels like a home away from home. We don’t need to worry about anything.”

Ariel Gonzales, Senior Warden and Past Master of Lodge No. 2, said cooking the meal together for guests is a combination of fellowship and philanthropy, both of which are important to the lodge.

“The turnout [of brothers] is definitely encouraging, and Bill participating in this program makes it a natural fit for our lodge to volunteer,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun and nice to pay it forward. We look to maintain this tradition far into the future.”

Lodge No. 2 is scheduled to cook again on Sunday, May 5, 2024.

If your lodge would like to get involved with Howie’s House, please reach out to Bill Soloway at All lodges or appendant bodies are welcome to participate in the program.

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