Living the “Rite” Way – Portland Children’s Dyslexia Center

“The time is always NOW!” It’s always a good time to ask ourselves, “Do I live the ‘Rite’ way?” 

The 29 Scottish Rite degrees teach six core values: Integrity, Justice, Service to Humanity, Tolerance, Devotion to Country, and Reverence for God. They tell stories that take place over a span of 3,000 years and build upon the ritualist and symbolic lessons portrayed in our Blue Lodge degrees.

Let’s look at one core value…Service to Humanity. While we practice charity in many ways, nothing is more important than when a Scottish Rite Mason cares for a brother who needs an understanding and compassionate friend. This Brother-to-Brother support system exemplifies who we are – a Brotherhood of Men under the Fatherhood of God – and is central to the vision of Scottish Rite Masonry to be “a fraternity that fulfills our Masonic obligation to care for our members.”

Sometimes more than a friend is needed, and in those instances, perhaps the Grand Almoner’s Fund can provide the financial support a member needs – to help him straddle a hurdle placed in life’s way or rekindle and even restore a life devastated by personal and family tragedy. If you are aware of a Scottish Rite brother in such circumstances, please contact the Valley Secretary.

Our Scottish Rite charities help us serve humanity…not only our members but people in our communities. We all have heard of the Shriners and their great burns and orthopedic hospitals for children. But many aren’t aware of another free service to youngsters, in this case, the Scottish Rite offers to children with dyslexia. 

Children’s Dyslexia Centers 

One in five people is afflicted with varying levels of dyslexia, a neurological condition that scrambles how printed words appear to would-be readers. Maine Masons commit hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly to the Bikes for Books reading incentive program. That’s great! But what if your child struggles and is frustrated by reading difficulties that go unaddressed in local school systems? This is where your Scottish Rite makes an impactful difference in the lives of children.

When selling raffle tickets last fall, a young teenage girl picked up a ticket…and then asked her mother what it said. She couldn’t read it…she has dyslexia that her schools had not remediated. She has been passed from grade to grade, unable to read the printed materials before her. Her school failed to meet her needs, help her achieve her potential, and imagine more lofty goals.

Another mother tells of her son reading four years below his peers. Introduced to a special program, he caught up to his peers in just six months and is now taking college courses while in high school. What did he have that the young lady did not? Access to one of our Scottish Rite Children’s Dyslexia Centers (CDC)!

The learning centers started 30 years ago in Newtonville, MA, and have spread across the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. They are now our most impactful Service to Humanity. How large is this Scottish Rite operation? The budget for the upcoming year is over $7.2 million, allowing us to serve over 1,100 children in 45 centers, including one in Rochester, NH, and two in Maine – in Bangor and ours in Portland. The Bangor Center will soon celebrate its 25th anniversary, and Portland recently celebrated its 20th. While 1,100 children being served is great, one in five children might need our services.

Maine’s CDCs will be featured in the upcoming issue of the Maine Mason

Be on the watch for an exciting new film on Maine’s two Learning Centers, produced with funding from the Maine Masonic Charitable Foundation. The MMCF is a strong financial supporter of our CDCs and provides $2 for $1 matching grants (up to $3,000) to Lodges in support of the CDCs. Please urge your Lodge to take advantage of this generous opportunity.

The Portland Children’s Dyslexia Center, located at 1897 Congress Street near the Portland Airport, is our Valley’s and Maine Consistory’s largest charitable program in terms of its impact on society, its financial outlay, and its need for member and community involvement. 


Each CDC must fully fund and oversee its operations, and the Portland CDC budget for 2022-23 is $165,000; more funding would allow us to serve more children (there are 52 on our waiting list). The budget is funded by our personal donations, including when we pay our dues, by an annual appeal to Masonic lodges and others, and by two new fundraising initiatives – an LL Bean Raffle and the Portland Festival of Trees; and by the generous support of our Valley.

The LL Bean Raffle should fund up to $18,000 (11%) of our budget. Tickets are $10, and the three winners will be awarded $1,000, $750, and $500 LL Bean gift cards. Tickets are available for purchase at the CDC and from many Valley members. If you are willing to sell tickets, please contact the CDC at 207-773-4949 or Tom Pulkkinen, the CDC Chairman, at 207-350-9525.

The second annual Festival of Trees will be held two weekends following Thanksgiving at the Portland Masonic Center. Thirty trees were donated last year for our first Festival, and we hope to have 40 this year. People buy raffle tickets and place them in collection boxes beside the tree(s) they want to win. At the end of the Festival, winning tickets are pulled, and the winners get the tree, decorations, and all the presents on and under the tree. 

If you or your business would like to donate a decorated tree with presents or become an event sponsor, please contact the CDC or Tom Pulkkinen for more information. The value of the trees ranged from about $500 to $1,100 last year. Please let us know if you would like to assist during this important fundraiser that we hope will net over $55,000 this year.

Leadership Opportunities

A Board of Governors leads the Portland CDC, its several committees, and the Portland Children’s Dyslexia Foundation is responsible for the building and many fundraising operations. Membership on the CDC Board of Governors is open to Masons and Non-Masons with few exceptions, and much of the work can be done via ZOOM and other meeting opportunities. All members of the Valley of Portland and Maine Consistory are members of the Foundation, and we welcome you to its Board of Trustees. Please contact the CDC or Tom Pulkkinen if you, a family member, or a friend/coworker might like to participate in the work of these bodies.

Teaching Opportunities

The CDC trains tutors to work with children with dyslexia. The training includes a practicum as well as seminars. During their practicum, each trainee tutors   2 children twice weekly at the Center. Tutoring is done during the after-school hours from roughly 3 to 7 pm and depends on the tutors' availability. After one year of volunteer service, trainees become certified tutors and can join the CDC's paid staff. We also work with local school districts to train their teachers in the Orton-Gillingham approach to dyslexia remediation. This is a great opportunity for retired teachers and others devoted to helping children fulfill their dreams and potential. If you or someone you know may be interested in learning more about these exciting opportunities, please contact Barbara Labrecque at the Portland CDC.

So again, I ask, do YOU live the “Rite” way?

How do you make the Rite an important aspect of your life? How do you incorporate our core values into your daily life? How do you and your family participate in its activities? How do you support our charities? 

Might the Portland Scottish Rite Children’s Dyslexia Center be the opportunity you are looking for to make a difference in someone’s life, including your own and that of a child precious to you?