Fresh fruit and fellowship for Christmas

Gene Howell, Jon King, Ben King and Gene Duffey load a truck with bags of fruit to distribute to the elderly and widows around Columbiana Dec. 19. (Reporter Photo/Stephanie Brumfield)

Gene Howell, John King, Ben King and Gene Duffey load a truck with bags of fruit to distribute to the elderly and widows around Columbiana Dec. 19. (Reporter Photo/Stephanie Brumfield)

By STEPHANIE BRUMFIELD / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – Just days before Christmas, members of the South Shelby Masonic Lodge prepared about 100 bags of fresh fruit to distribute to the elderly living around Columbiana.

Lodge member Gene Howell said providing fresh fruit to the community is a project the lodge sponsors annually to “let the community know we’re here and to help some of the older folks.”

For the fruit distribution, lodge members specifically target widows, people who stay at home, and people who have little interaction with others, Howell said. The lodge has been distributing fresh fruit for about six years and made trips to Shelby Woods Apartments, Shangri-La Assisted Living and various homes Dec. 19.

Howell said every home visit involves fellowship and spending time with the residents.

“They’re just tickled to death to see you,” Howell said. “They cry and want to hug you. It breaks your heart.”

Howell also said the project serves as a way to help the community learn more about the organizations.

“People get the wrong concept,” Howell said. “We’re just a group of good men. It’s not a religious organization, but it’s an organization based on religious principles. We’re also not a secret organization. We’re just an organization with secrets, like a fraternity.”

The South Shelby Masonic Lodge has about 90 members from the Columbiana and Wilsonville area.