The Rev. Belle Mickelson became the first recipient of a newly created award from the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Alaska. Mickelson received the Grand Master’s Community Builders Award from Joe Darnell, grand master of Masons in Alaska, at a Saturday, July 31 event held at the Reluctant Fisherman Inn.
Mickelson, who is a priest for St. George’s Episcopal Church, received the award in part for her music education work, which includes serving as artistic director and adult camp director for Cordova 4H Music Camp and as director for the statewide music program Dancing With The Spirit.
The award was created to recognize outstanding community members who are not necessarily Masons, Darnell said.
“It’s for people who help build their community — not with hammer and nail, but through volunteer work,” he said.
While seeking a candidate for the award, Darnell contacted Cordova community leaders like City Manager Helen Howarth and Police Chief Nate Taylor. Again and again, Mickelson’s name was the first one to come up, Darnell said.
“I mean, have you seen her resume?” Darnell quipped. “It was a no-brainer.”
Coincidentally, Senior Grand Warden Gregory A. Russell and Junior Grand Warden Douglas Studer, riding the ferry to Cordova, met a woman from North Carolina who knew Mickelson through Mickelson’s youth music education work. This showed the far-reaching influence of Mickelson’s volunteering, Darnell said.
Mickelson is not a Mason. However, her father, Presbyterian deacon George Heffner, was an active Mason, she said. At the July 31 event, Mickelson brought out a cufflink and a gold ring, both decorated with Masonic symbols, that had belonged to her father.
The Grand Lodge of Alaska intends to bestow about two Grand Master’s Community Builders Awards per year. Darnell expects to deliver a second award to a member of a small community later this year, he said.
Mickelson thanked the Masons for the award.
“Anytime somebody gets an award, it’s an inspiration to others to do the same — get out in your community and volunteer,” Mickelson said. “If you can get kids into a lifetime of music, they’re going to be bringing joy to all their communities and to their families and friends. I believe music changes lives, and that’s why, besides the church, I’ve been involved in music the most in my later years… I look forward, in the future, to other people getting this award. There’s lots of community builders in Cordova.”
Cordova’s Masonic Lodge, currently referred to as Mt. McKinley Lodge No. 5, was established in 1911, and is headquartered at the Masonic Hall on First Street. Meetings take place at 7:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every odd month, according to the lodge website.