Several years ago, a chapter of Freemasons was discussing how to
send one of their officers to an upcoming ceremony in Washington,
Among those at the Florida meeting was Jon Temple, owner of
Tempool Inc., a pool plastering, surfacing and repair company based in
Temple had amassed hundreds of thousands of airline miles on his
American Express card — thanks largely to an agreement
he’d made years earlier with a manufacturer. So he offered to
donate the miles. A fellow attendee, however, had a better idea.
“The guy was one of the head Shriners,” recalls Temple,
himself a member of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the
Mystic Shrine. “And he says to me, ‘Jon, the guy
you’re going to hand your miles to has a job. Don’t
give him something for free. Why not donate those miles to me, and
let’s fly some burned and crippled kids to the hospital
— that’s where we need the money.’
“So the next day I went to the Shriners and gave them a
million airline miles.”
Over the next four years, Temple and his associates would
contribute upwards of 6 million miles to the Shriners
transportation fund, which brings children to one of 22 pediatric
hospitals across North America for specialty care of a variety of
afflictions including burns, spinal cord injuries, orthopedics,
skin conditions and facial clefts.
The effort extended beyond Temple to his employees, as well as
about 25 local pool companies. Even Tempool’s primary
manufacturer, CL Industries, got involved.
“It’s our whole industry,” Temple says.
“When you see that type of stewardship, and you see the
people around you fall in line with it — that really makes
Sadly, Florida’s recent economic hardships have slowed the
crusade over the past few years. But the program is still very much
in effect today, Temple says.
Oddly enough, the effort may never have taken shape were it not for
a chance encounter in Honduras in the early 1990s.
A young Temple was serving in the Peace Corps there from 1991-93,
teaching local kids mathematics, as well as wood shop and metal
Just across the border in El Salvador, a 12-year civil war was
reaching its climax. And Honduran children, whose parents would
fight in order to support their families, often got caught in the
Temple recalls one victim in particular, a young girl whose legs
were badly damaged after she stepped on a landmine. While she was
being fitted for prosthetics, an aid worker told Temple about the
work that Shriners did back in the United States on behalf of
injured and disabled children.
It struck a chord. But his plans would have to wait, because after
his term of service ended, Temple remained in Honduras for four
years. He ran a construction company there, met his wife and had a
child before moving to Florida for economic reasons, he says.
Back stateside, he then set about becoming a Shriner, which means
first becoming a Freemason.
In fact, the Shriners were established in 1870 as an affiliated
organization to Freemasonry. Today, their members number
approximately 340,000 from nearly 200 chapters in the United
States, Canada, Mexico, Panama, the Philippines, Puerto Rico,
Europe and Australia.
The Tampa, Fla.-based society is perhaps best known for the
children’s hospitals it supports, as well as the red fezzes
its members often wear. And though its dress and full name at times
invokes Arabic themes, the Shrine is not affiliated with Islam, or
any religious group.
It is, generally speaking, a men’s fraternity above all
For Temple, the Shriners represent an opportunity to give to those
less fortunate: “I don’t think we were put here to get
rich,” he says. “I think we were put here to help
everybody. If you can’t help someone else, you can’t
Thus far, his efforts have been funneled into the Shriners
transportation needs. But Temple hopes to develop a program with a
credit card company where, instead of offering airline miles, a
portion of each payment is rebated back for donation to one of the
“Prosthetics, skin grafts — all that technology has
come from the Shriners, and they’ve passed it on,”
Temple says. “The technical advancements and the studies they
do are incredible. I would like to be able to come up with funding
to help the hospitals directly, so the kids can get even better