Volume LVIIIAugust 2011Number 3

Help for Our Heroes

Left-right: Brothers Marvin Levy, P.M., Danny Hinds, Col. John Spare, R.W. Senior Grand Warden Bob Bateman, R.W. Deputy Grand Master Jay W. Smith, Col. Harris Brooks, and Daniel McCaffery, volunteer mentor for veterans courts.

The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania teamed up with the March of Dimes to surprise 30 expectant military moms and dads with a baby shower and gifts at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., on June 11. The base serves all branches of the military.

The moms-to-be received an infant car seat and gift boxes filled with baby supplies, including diapers, educational toys and much more - courtesy of Pennsylvania Masons' generous donations to the Help for Our Heroes program.

"The Pennsylvania Masons are thrilled to partner with the March of Dimes," said R.W. Grand Master Thomas K. Sturgeon. "In addition to our financial support, we want to thank all of the new military parents-to-be for the sacrifices and contributions they and their families make to better our country each and every day."

Moms-to-be, and in some cases, brand new parents, also received the latest pregnancy and newborn health information from the March of Dimes Mission: Healthy Baby® program, designed to educate military parents and address their unique needs. The showers provide this opportunity while supporting military members who may be stationed far away from the support of family and friends, or who may be fighting a war while their partner is home, expecting a child. Very high levels of stress, such as the stress caused by a deployment, may contribute to premature birth or low birth weight in full-term babies.

"Having a baby is a joyful experience. However, it's also one that comes with anxiety and stress, especially when your spouse is deployed overseas by the U.S. military," said Jane Massey, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the March of Dimes. "The March of Dimes is excited and grateful for this opportunity to partner with the Masons to give these military families the comfort and support they deserve."

R.W. Deputy Grand Master Jay W. Smith and R.W. Senior Grand Warden Robert J. Bateman joined Bro. and Col. Harris Brooks to preside over the specially-planned event, representing the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. The room was decorated with purple camouflage tablecloths topped with beautiful flowers, decorative balloons and posters welcoming the honorees with phrases like, "Three cheers for your new recruit!"

Upon arrival, the ladies were escorted to their seats by 20 young volunteer sergeants in uniform from the Noncommissioned Officers Academy, who previously had been given an introduction to Freemasonry and the March of Dimes. Following lunch and speakers, the gifts were provided to the expectant parents.

"It was phenomenal!" Bro. Brooks said. "Many of the women and their husbands were crying, and I heard a number of them saying, 'I can't believe anyone would do this for us!'"

To top it all off, Bro. and Col. Jonathan W. Spare, Vice Commander of the 514th Air Mobility Wing and member of Brotherhood Lodge No. 126, asked one of the honorees to help him select the winner of the door prize: a large stroller with an infant car seat and a $575 gift card to Babies "R" Us. To the excitement of the crowd, he read the ticket and announced, "Everyone's a winner!" Every single attendee took home the prizes.

Many smiling through their tears, the women whose husbands are deployed were escorted home by a sergeant, who carried her gifts and made sure everything was put together or placed where she needed it.

"The fact that the community is focused on supporting military families is inspiring," added Bro. and Lt. Col. John Barlett, Bellefont Lodge No. 268, Commander of the 87th Air Force Support Squadron, who was also in attendance.

"Every Pennsylvania Freemason should be proud to be part of this initiative!" Grand Master Sturgeon said.

One particular honoree was very familiar. Almost exactly a year prior, Staff Sgt. Richard Slifer, Jr., presented a petition to become a Mason to Bro. Brooks to join Brotherhood Lodge No. 126 while assisting with a tour of a C17 for residents of the Masonic Village at Lafayette Hill. He became a Master Mason during the One Day Masonic Journey. His pregnant wife, an Air Force Tech Sergeant, is on assignment in Texas, so he proudly attended the shower in her absence: A Mason, A Hero, and now - A Dad.

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