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Rommel talks about Mason history and Shrine Hospital

Submitted photo.

The Masons of Collins-Spring Valley Lodge in Baldwin were given a good insight into the Shrine at the annual St. John's Night on Dec. 27 at the Hammond Golf Club.

Rod Rommel, Past Master of River Falls Lodge and active member of the St. Croix Valley Shrine Club, was invited to be the guest speaker at the Masons annual Mason of the Year banquet.

Rommel, who also is a board member of the Shrine Hospital for Children in the Twin Cities, gave fellow Masons and guests a brief history of the Shrine.

According to Rommel, the Shrine was started in 1872 when a group of Masons in Manhattan began meeting socially for lunch at the Knickerbocker Hotel. They started discussions about a fraternal meeting without the formal memory work and ritual at lodge.

Rod says it was two of the brothers, Dr. Fleming and Billy Florence who were invited to attend a dinner party at an Arabian diplomat's house. After the evening, the pair thought the Arabian garb might be a good idea for their fraternal order. They started the Mecca Temple in Manhattan and later formed a temple in Rochester, New York. The idea started to catch on and the newly formed group soon formed an Imperial Council. Because most of the members were well off, they began what would be a long standing history of charitable giving.

The New York group visited the Scottish Rite Children's Hospital in Atlanta and got the idea to start a hospital. Thus the Shriners Hospital for Children was born in 1922. The very first hospital was in Shreveport. All the hospitals would be funded from assessments from membership dues.

By the end of the decade 13 hospitals were built.

And with the addition of a hospital in Sacramento, California in 1975, the Shrine Hospitals for Children now total 22 in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Rod said the St. Croix Valley Shrine Club has been a major funding source for the hospital with its Little East West Shrine Game. The game has been played in River Falls for the last 49 years. This fall's event will mark their 50th year. Over this period the club has provided $550,000 for Shrine charities.

Rommel went on to cite some statistics that were quiet impressive. The Twin Cities hospital through November 2010 considered 1,100 applications with 778 being accepted. The hospital cares for kids 18 and younger who suffer from muscle, bone or joint problems. Income, financial status and/or insurance coverage have no impact on a patient's eligibility for service.

The hospital in the Twin Cities has an operating budget of $14,700,000. In fact, it takes $1.5 million a day to operate all 22 hospitals in the system. There are 21 board members at the Twin Cities hospital, 2 surgeons on staff, 1 pediatrician, one anesthesiologist and others who help out when needed. The Twin Cities Hospital serves 18 temples in the greater Midwest area.

On of the challenges facing the hospitals is the growing need for patient services and the declining member base of the Shrine. To compensate, Rommel said, "We have learned to do more with less."

To add to the services offered, Rod said Shriners has been trying to partner with other Twin Cities Hospitals - because when they come across a problem the Shrine Hospital can't handle, patients have to be transferred to another hospital.

Another cost saving approach being considered is accepting insurance when available. This will be starting this coming April.

One unique feature of the Twin Cities Shrine Hospital is their Auxiliary, made up of wives of Nobles. The Shrine Hospital here is the only hospital in the system to boast an Auxiliary. According to Rommel, the Auxiliary has built a 20 unit hotel next to the hospital rooms to house families at the hospital for extended periods. The local area Auxiliary has several major fund raisers, including an auction and collection of pop can tabs for wheel chairs.

Rod Rommel announced the Shriners are always looking for kids to help. Shriners hold screenings at the hospital at 2025 East River Parkway in Minneapolis. Dates are: Wednesday, Jan 19; Friday, Feb 18; and Wednesday, March 23. Hours are 1 to 4 pm.

If you know of someone who might be a candidate for care, please call 1-612-596-6105 or 1-888-293-2832 or email