Four years ago a friend of mine who volunteered at a food pantry talked to me about how difficult it was for rural food pantries to get bread. After we talked, I recalled how as a child on a poor working farm back in the early 1940s, we would drive to Buffalo from Angola, NY to get a whole truckload of bread and donuts for animal feed for only $2. After that conversation, I visited a couple of bread manufacturers and asked them about this. Apparently what happened was too many people said it was for animal feed, but several people got caught selling it at flea markets, so we needed proof of animal farm to get returned bread. So I went to a couple of food pantries with the proper donation forms, had pantry supervisors fill them out, sign them and went back to the bread manufacturers. It worked! We started getting donated bread!
As trust grew, so did the bread count. As bread count grew, I looked for more places that needed bread. Worshipful Master Dave Bindig of Fortune Lodge stepped up and helped me find another pantry. He also took the time to do bread pickups at BJ’s parking lot on Wednesdays between 4:30-5:00 p.m.
Then Gary Fazio of Eastern Star Chapter in Lackawanna and AGL Joel Burkley of West Seneca Lodge started picking up bread for their pantries. Once a month I’d drop off bread at the Silver Creek Food Pantry for Silver Lodge of Silver Creek. R.W. Jim MConnel of Batavia Lodge recently joined and picks up about 250 for their local Food Pantry. Secretary George Hudson and Dean Gaston are doing pickups for Akron Lodge and now take about 125-150 loaves of bread each month for the Akron-Newstead Food Pantry. I visited Akron Lodge and presented the program to them and they stepped right up.
With the 2017 addition of the Rochester, NY area, we now distribute about 9000 loaves of Pepperidge Farms and Schwabels bread and bakery products per month to the respective food pantries in their districts and beyond. We do this through the efforts of Lodges and Brothers of 2nd Erie District. At present eight Lodges are participating in the effort of supplying bread to several pantries.
Now because these pantries receive so much bread, they want to reciprocate. Four pantries mentioned to me, “Andy, because of what the Masons are doing for us, if you know of anyone in need, please bring them to our attention and we will help them.” Here’s how they’re helping. These pantries have partnered up with our Surviving Spouses and Loved Ones Program. Surviving spouses and loved ones, related to Master Masons, qualify for the WNY Food Pantry. They are able to receive the kind of food available in any large grocery store: plenty of fish, chicken, pork chops, hams, turkeys, and vegetables. They are able to get not only food but also clothing, kitchen utensils, toys for their children, etc. at no cost to them. At the moment we have three special ladies in the program: a widow, divorced mother, and a single mother. I would like to thank Albert Hoffman of Valley of Buffalo for his mentoring and guidance on the Surviving Spouses and Loved Ones Program initiated by Most Worthy Past Grand Master Gilbert.
However, there’s still room for expansion. The bread manufacturers have informed me that we can have as much bread as we can distribute. This is where we need more brothers and lodges to step up to the plate and help the food pantries in their districts.
My Brothers, we have the capabilities and assets to take this from 6000 loaves per month to 20,000 per month. It’s up to us. To my knowledge, there is no program like this out there anywhere. We, the Masons of Erie District, can be the forerunners of a program that provides a much-needed community service—feeding the less fortunate by supplying food in these trying economic times. All it takes is a bit of your time and gas to do this service for our community.
Thank you, Brothers of Akron Lodge #527, for your dedicated participation. Special thanks to Master Leigh Menzel, Secretary George Hudson, and Brother Dean Gaston and his wife Sue for driving to Buffalo since 2015 to pick up bread.
I would also like to mention the efforts of 32nd Degree Valley of Buffalo and Blazing Star Lodge of East Aurora, Russ Barber of Blazing Star for his connection to the East Aurora food pantry, and Leonard Mason of 32nd Degree Valley of Buffalo has been extremely helpful in getting this started there and upcoming in Mohawk District.
Thank you to 2nd Erie District Past Deputy Grand Master John Haslam, Sr. and Present District Deputy Grand Master R.W. Robert Drzewucki for their confidence and encouragement of these endeavors. Their words of support gave me the desire to work even harder on expanding this program.
If interested in joining Brothers Of The Bread, please contact me at Blazing Star Lodge #694 in East Aurora, NY. Just ask for Brother Andrew Egressy (Andy). Meetings are 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month, dinner at 6:30 pm. Come to the lodge and talk with us, contact me at MoreInfo@BrothersOfTheBread.com, or fill out the contact form below. Brother Masons, we need your help in expanding this program in your community to feed the less fortunate. Please step forward and let’s see what we can do together. The East Aurora Advertiser did an outstanding article on how the Freemasons of the Blazing Star Lodge are helping their local families in need. Let’s show other communities that the Masons can help them too.