Becoming a family

Masonic Village at Burlington celebrates 125th anniversary

CHRISTINE HARKINSON/The Sun: Masonic Village at Burlington’s Marketing Director Alyssa Gruenes (left to right), Executive Director Anda Durso, Director of Activities Maria Mattera, nurse Carlo Sipaco and Assistant Executive Director Cindy Shemansky will celebrate the village’s 125th anniversary on Friday.

Masonic Village at Burlington will host its 125th anniversary gala, presented by sponsor Life Care Services (LCS), with county business owners, local and regional dignitaries and community leaders on Friday.

The nonprofit dates to 1898 and is set on 450 acres of wooded grounds. It has been named the top life-plan community in the state and is also one of the county’s single largest employers.

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Masonic Village has donated acres of land for fire departments and high-school campuses; has helped other community-service organizations; and offers services that include independent living; assisted living; short-term rehabilitation; memory care; hospice care; home care; and long-term care.

“(If) you grew up in the community, in the township, you came (by) here when you went to school down the street and you saw this community grow,” said Maria Mattera, director of activities at Masonic Village.

According to its website and Executive Director Anda Durso, the nonprofit began as an orphanage before opening to the mothers of Masons during World War I. Freemasonry refers to fraternal organizations that trace their origins to local guilds of stonemasons from the end of the 13th century. 

Since inception, every Mason and lodge has an obligation to contribute to charity, and in the 21st century, members of Masonic lodges put much of their focus on supporting worthy causes in their communities. 

The Masonic Home of New Jersey was founded more than 100 years ago, and the Masons of New Jersey built a tremendous resource for the care of seniors now known as Masonic Village at Burlington.

“There’s a hook – and I can only speak for myself – with the residents,” Mattera noted. “When I leave here every day, I’ve learned something new, whether it’s (about) a resident or a family member.”

Masonic will receive a proclamation from Gov. Phil Murphy’s office and anniversary gala supporters include American Health Services Inc., Burlington Lodge 32, Estate and Elder Care Law and Hometown Moving and Storage. Several local businesses are donating products and services for the event, including Stein’s Florist, a county fixture for more than a century.

The anniversary cake was made by a military wife living on the nearby McGuire Air Force Base and the Bonsal Blues Band will perform.

“It’s been surprising for us because we knew it was going to be a lot of work, but we didn’t anticipate the level of enthusiasm that people would display from the community,” Durso said of the event. 

“Everybody was thrilled to participate and very eager.”

Mattera, nurse Carlo Sipaco and Assistant Executive Director Cindy Shemansky tied Masonic’s close-knit and diverse environment into an anniversary gala that will celebrate the relationships between residents and staff.

“We’re not maybe blood, but we do become family,” Mattera noted.

“Our team members value the care and services that we provide here so much that they want their family members to come here for rehab,” Shemansky observed. “We’ve also had some (people) that have come here to live as residents … 

“To put your family member, to bring them into a community like this, says a lot.”

For more information on the anniversary gala, visit

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