Volume LVAugust 2008Number 3

A 'Labor of Love'

R.W. Grand Master Stephen Gardner, Susan Brandt and William Brandt, Sr., District Deputy Grand Master for District 12

As soon as Susan Brandt, wife of Bro. William Brandt, Sr., King David Lodge No. 763, Kingston, and District Deputy Grand Master for District 12, heard about the Change for the Troops program in late December, she devised a plan to reach out to her local community for the benefit of the country's dedicated soldiers. Her efforts have really added up... to $6,500 in a little over four months.

"Bill and I were married during the Vietnam War era and I've always wanted to do something for our soldiers," Susan said. "Change for the Troops tugged at my heart strings.'"

With an introductory letter in hand from Bro. Stephen Gardner, R.W. Grand Master, she headed to local supermarkets, convenience stores and restaurants with paint cans covered in Change for the Troops graphics. Every Saturday since February, she has personally collected change in grocery stores with the help of her 14-year-old granddaughter, Kristen Cirilo, daughter of Bro. Joseph Cirilo, King David Lodge No. 763. They sell patriotic pens, flashlights and pins for $1, with the profits going toward Change for the Troops.

During these collection times, Susan and Kristen often hear stories from people with loved ones serving overseas. One woman shared the story of her husband who is serving in Afghanistan. She gave birth to a baby close to his deployment and, thanks to the phone card he received courtesy of the Freemasons, he was able to call home often and check on his new addition. He was so grateful, he sent a thank you note to the Grand Lodge.

When the Brandts started their fundraising efforts, they had no one close to them serving in the military. Their mission really hit home recently, though, when their great-nephew, Edward Davis, was deployed to Iraq with the U.S. Army. He is an only child. "It is so important for him to be able to call home," Susan said. "Every mother with a son or daughter over there, breaking their hearts, needs her child to be able to call home and hear their mama's voice."

At the June Quarterly Communication, Susan and Bro. Brandt presented a check to Grand Master Gardner. Unaware of their efforts, "he was completely floored," according to Bro. Brandt.

As part of a contest called Pay It Forward, organized by the "Citizens Voice," a local newspaper, Susan wrote an essay depicting how she would take the prize money and turn it into even more funds to benefit Change for the Troops. On June 23, Susan received news she had placed second, winning $2,500. She will use the money to enhance the signs on the collection cans and purchase more of the smaller items she sells. An article was published in the "Citizens Voice" featuring the winners of the contest, spreading the word about Freemasonry and Change for the Troops throughout the Greater Wyoming Valley and Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Her goal is to double the amount she has already raised and hand over another check for $6,500 in December.

"When I started this, my expectations were to raise $2,500, but things began rolling, and I kept getting more ideas, and the money kept coming in," Susan said. "I never thought it would turn out like this. I can't wait to get to the bank each week and deposit the money. It really is a labor of love."

"It's astounding what a bunch of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters in cans add up to," Bro. Brandt said. "The general public has really embraced it. They realize what it means to help our military fighting in the desert."

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