At the beginning of this month, the 2nd to be precise, my Commandery held its annual Groundhog's Day Breakfast which is used to help raise money for two of the Templar charities, the Knights Templar Eye Foundation and Knights Templar Holy Land Pilgrimage. The former is probably the more well-known of the two, but the latter has a unique service to those who serve in the worthy profession of minister.
The mission of this charity is "to send ordained Christian ministers on a Biblical study and historical and cultural immersion experience who would not have the opportunity otherwise." It is hoped that this will strengthen their ministry as they are provided with a chance to walk around the Holy Land where Christ walked and take part in intensive study programs
The committee that governs this organizes and supervises the planning and execution of the overall program and the groups of ministers' travel.
Sir Knights from the local Commanderies submit nominations for a local minister to the Committee on Holy Land Pilgrimage of the Grand Commandery of their State. The State Committee reviews the nomination and selects the number of ministers they willing to send over based on funds available. Local Commanderies can choose to pay 100% of the costs and fully sponsor a minister. These selected nominations and 100% sponsored are then sent up to the Grand Encampment's Holy Land Pilgrimage Committee and this committee is responsible for the full funding of the ministers' travel.
The travel usually occurs between February and March, and last 11-days; two of the days are travel days.
Costs vary from year to year, but the price is announced each Spring by the Committee. The costs cover the round trip flight from NYC to Tel Aviv, fuel surcharges, airport taxes, 9-nights' accommodations, 8-breakfasts, 7-lunches, 8-dinners, program expenses, and some other basic fees. They do not cover personal incidents, souvenirs, and the travel from the home state to NYC. Usually the local Commandery will cover these costs, but the Grand Commandery can also choose to cover if they have the funds. It is important to note that the NYC-Tel Aviv travel costs are covered by the Grand Commandery and not the Grand Encampment.
For more information please check out the Holy Land Pilgrimage website.
According to the Foundation:
The Knights Templar Eye Foundation is committed to support research that can help launch the careers of clinical or basic researchers committed to the prevention and cure of potentially blinding diseases in infants and children. We support clinical or basic research on conditions that can or may eventually be treated or prevented. Examples include but are not limited to amblyopia, congenital cataract, congenital glaucoma, retinopathy of prematurity, ocular malformations, congenital nystagmus, and other hereditary eye diseases such as retinal dystrophies or retinoblastoma.The KTEF is committed to preserving sight and preventing blindness since its creation in 1955. Historically funding went to direct patient care as well as research and education, but with the recent passage of the Affordable Healthcare Act the mission and direction of the KTEF changed to solely funding research and education efforts.
The KTEF was founded by Sir Knight Walter Allen DeLamater from New York. A veteran of the first World War he was known to be involved in many diverse fields of interest, but would eventually choose Templary to be his life's great work. In the military he would become the only person in his Regiment's history to rise from Private to Major General and served his country with commendable courage on many different fronts of war and conflict. After his time overseas he returned to civil service in New York where he served in several important assignments.
DeLamater was initiated into Halterman Lodge #412 in Middletown, NY, on July 26th, 1917. He was considered a very talented Mason and was knighted in Yonkers Commandery #47 on March 17th, 1921 where he rose quickly through the ranks. He served as Grand Commander in 1934 and was elected to the Grand Encampment in 1937. At the 1946 Grand Conclave the Sir Knights heard the story of DeLamater's vision he had received while awaiting an operation to fix a blood clot that was causing him paralysis and other problems for a number of years. In the vision he said that angels spoke to him and said that he must heal the blind as Jesus did and then made a miraculous recovery from what was seen as a near death experience.
He sought out to fulfill his divine mission and prior to the 1952 Triennium (where he was Deputy Grand Master), he began his campaign. He launched a brilliant campaign promoting Knights Templar Eye Hospitals in connection with existing hospitals throughout the US. During the meeting there were many heated debates and arguments that were noted to have lasted into the hallways after the meetings had finished. After was all said and done, they rejected the phrase "Eye Hospitals" and adopted "Eye Foundation". After clarifications, resolutions, and amendments this proposal finally was passed with a 3/4 vote.
According to the Edmund Ball in A History of the Founding of the Knights Templar Eye Foundation:
From the very beginning, a Medical Advisory Council consisting of able and dedicated ophthalmologists from all over the country guided the Foundation. For a good many years funds for research were granted somewhat promiscuously on recommendations from knowledgeable Sir Knights but without particular focus. This would be corrected a number of years later when the distinguished Dr. Alfred Edward Maumanee, Jr., Director of the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, established a Scientific Advisory Committee in 1985, consisting of five distinguished ophthalmologists from over the United States. This committee screens all the proposals for grants for research and pediatric ophthalmology.To accomplish their goals, the KTEF annually announces its call for research grant applications. Applicants may see Career-Starter Research Grant, Competitive Renewal Grant, or a Training Mentors for Developing Countries (TMDC) Fellowship. The received applications are screened by the Scientific Advisory Committee who then recommend to the Board of Trustees which requests should be granted and awarded. From its beginning to August 2012, the Foundation has reported that it has spent $137,000,000 on research, patient care, and education.