Published: 17:44, 20 April 2020
| Updated: 09:16, 21 April 2020
A Kent man has been appointed the new head of a national Freemasons' charity - one of the largest grant-giving charities in the country.
Les Hutchinson, from West Malling, will be taking over as chief executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), following the retirement of David Innes later this year.
Mr Hutchinson has been actively involved in Freemasons’ charities since 1988, when he joined the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys as a management trainee, working his way up the ranks to chief executive.
Freemasonry is one of the oldest and largest non-religious, non-political organisations, with branches across the world.
Only men can apply to become a member of the secular movement which evolved from the guilds of stonemasons in the Middle Ages, however there are separate organisations for women.
Although discussion of religion and politics is forbidden at their meetings, all applicants must believe in the existence of a supreme being and "the inmortality of the soul".
Following the creation of MCF in 2016, Mr Hutchinson, 52, has served as its chief operating officer, working in close partnership with David Innes and the trustees.
Over the last four years, the organisation which is funded entirely from the donations of Freemasons and their families and friends, has established itself as one of the largest grant-giving charities in the country, supporting more than 300 charities every year across England and Wales.
These include two grants of £1 million to both Age UK and Home-Start, which supports families with young children.
As the coronavirus pandemic has taken hold of the nation, the MCF has set aside £2 million to support projects responding to the outbreak and says it will also match any additional donations received from Freemasons, up to a further £1 million.
Alongside his work at MCF, Mr Hutchinson is also chairman of Young Lives Foundation in Maidstone and director of Crossroads Care in Surrey.
He is an active Freemason, holding senior positions in Kent and London.
Speaking about his new position, Mr Hutchinson said: "It’s an honour and privilege to become chief executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
"David Innes will be a hard act to follow but I will work tirelessly to ensure MCF continues to be a tremendous force for good and to make a difference to so many communities and individuals."
Chairman of MCF James Newman added: "I am delighted to welcome Les Hutchinson as the new chief executive. The Trustees and I have worked closely with him for many years and we have no doubt he is the right person to lead the MCF into the next exciting chapter of the charity’s story."