East Gate Masons donate tablets to Russell Elementary School

Find out why, and how, this outer East Portland school received the gift of 20 Kindle Fire tablet to help students who need them most …

In the Russell neighborhood, young readers here at Russell Elementary School are getting help with their school work, thanks to the East Gate Masonic Lodge, located in Parkrose.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

In past years, East Portland News has been invited to attend “Student Achievement” and  Summer Bikes for Books award ceremonies hosted by members of the East Gate Masonic Lodge, in Parkrose.

However, their updated statewide organization, “The Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of Oregon”, has come up with a new programs called “Kindle for Books – Advocating Public Education” that is funded by Masons’ donations, statewide, and is intended to help start a love of reading at the elementary-school level.

On February 28, the staff at Russell Elementary School became the local outer East Portland beneficiaries of this program.

“Our Masonic Lodge has been involved with promoting education for many years,” explained Christopher Lancefield, the Worshipful Master of East Gate Masonic Lodge #155 Free and Accepted Masons, at the presentation.

“As you’ve pointed out, we’ve been part of the Masonic Bikes for Books program; and in the past I believe that we had some scholarship programs and teacher recognition programs as well.

“This is because education has always been of interested to Freemasons,” Lancefield continued. “When we help increase literacy, we increase the prospect of hope and a better future for our children.”

At the presentation of the new Kindle Tablets is Russell Elementary School Principal Samantha Ragaisis; Christopher Lancefield, the Worshipful Master of East Gate Masonic Lodge #155 Free and Accepted Masons; and the Lodge’s Junior Warden, Kenn Clulow.

With the Kindle for Books program, the Grand Lodge of Oregon funds three-quarters of the cost of the Kindle Tablets; their local Lodge members provide the remaining 25%. The East Gate Masonic Lodge’s members decided to provide 20 brand-new Tablets to a deserving school in their area.

“We invited neighborhood public schools to participate; and Russell Elementary School responded – which is why we’re here today,” Lancefield said.

This program has special meaning to him, Lancefield confided. “The greatest influence in my life was my mother, Frances. She was a teacher in Portland Public Schools for many years, and is still working as a substitute teacher. My mother helped bring home the importance of education to me.”

“This is an amazingly wonderful gift to our students,” says Russell Elementary School Principal Samantha Ragaisis.

“For me, a professional educator, the gift of these Tablets shows that people in our community still remember the value of education, and that we’ve not ‘slipped through the cracks’ of society,” remarked Russell Elementary School Principal Samantha Ragaisis, in accepting the gift.

“These Tablets will help for the students who are really underserved, such as our English Language Learner students and students with special needs. This technology will help us give them a step up, and keep them from falling behind, especially during the time of COVID,” she observed.

As an example, the Tablet provides audible learning to support readers who are falling behind, Ragaisis pointed out. Also, using dedicated software, teachers can put learning items into students’ individual “folders”, which they can still access when not in the school building.

“When I first saw the invitation email, I also had another staff member read it because I was shocked to think that local people would actually make a generous donation like this to our students,” Ragaisis recalled. “Actually, I’m still a little overwhelmed.”

Special Education Teacher Brian Friedman says he’s ready to put these Kindle Tablets to good use.

“As a Special Education teacher of students in grades three through five, I’m so happy to get these and put them in place,” said teacher Brian Friedman while standing in his classroom. “This is another tool that we can use to help our kids – and give them a more well rounded, and balanced, approach to literacy.”

To find out more about the East Gate Masonic Lodge #155 of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons, located in Parkrose, CLICK HERE to see their website.

© 2022 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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