Although Christmas has passed, the holiday spirit lives on through one local business focused on giving back to the Greater Northern Neck.
On the second Saturday of every month, the Lancaster Union Masonic Lodge #88 A.F. and A.M. serves up an “All You Can Eat” breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits and blueberry pancakes to anyone who wants to come.
But while the breakfast appears to be a normal business venture, the Masonic Lodge uses the proceeds from the event to help support a multitude of charitable organizations.
The lodge’s association with The Little Angels speaks to its members’ dedication in benefitting local children throughout the area.
Little Angels, sponsored by Brenda Shirah and her daughter Dorenda “Dori” Alcombrack, works to bring toys and clothing to children in need and stockings and cards to seniors around Christmastime in the event that families cannot afford presents.
Last Christmas, Shirah and Alcombrack placed angel cards on trees in Kilmarnock’s Wal-Mart and Union First Market Bank, as well as in EVB Banks in Kilmarnock and Northumberland County.
Accoridng to Shirah in a press release, 356 children from the Northern Neck had their wishes fulfilled by the generosity of residents and businesses, with gifts for children coming into Wal-Mart as late as Christmas Eve.
The presents were then given to families and children in social services as a special delivery from Santa.
“My understanding is that [Little Angels] benefits hundreds of families at Christmas,” said Ralph Stewart “Stu” Polhamus, Jr., Junior Warden of Lancaster Union Lodge #88.
However, Shirah acknowledged that her work did not start and end with the holidays, describing a time where she delivered toys to schools in Gloucester and Middlesex.
“We don’t just do Christmas,” said Shirah. “We do whenever somebody calls us.”
Polhamus said the lodge not only supported Shirah’s yearlong efforts through giving her a place where she can make her collections, but by pitching in when they can as well.
“I know the lodge this year made a special donation of $350 because of the economic conditions and everything,” said Polhamus.
“The program has not gotten quite as much as it has gotten in the past, and they said that $350 made a tremendous difference,” he added. “They sent us a very nice letter during our regular meeting last month and we’ve gotten a plaque from them a couple of times thanking us for our support and letting them use our facility. “
Shirah said if it wasn’t for the Lancaster Union Lodge, she wouldn’t have a place to go to make her collections.
“It’s quite helpful to me and they enjoy doing it because it makes them feel good.
It makes me feel good that they’re doing it,” Shirah said, who added that the people she’s been able to help with the lodge’s support have been grateful for her work.
Shirah recalled a situation from years ago involving a family who had been in a car accident.
While the children were unhurt, the mother and father were “really messed up bad” by the accident, putting them both out of work.
According to Shirah, the wife had gone to social services to ask for money that would help pay their electric bill.
“They [told her to] come back next month,” Shirah said. “She said by next month, she wouldn’t have any power.”
The wife then took every penny she had and paid for the electric bill so the family would have heat.
But they were short on money for groceries and other needs.
Little Angels generously stepped in and helped them any way they could.
In response, the wife told Shirah: “Some day when I can, I will help you.”
Years later, Shirah was in her store when a little girl walked in with a bulk of toys and clothes that she noted were worth at least $200.
“Mama said you could use these,” the girl told Shirah before she set down the toys, said “thank you” and ran back to her mom’s car.
As the car began driving away, Alcombrack, who was helping her mother in the store, recognized the older woman in the vehicle.
“Mama,” Alcombrack gasped, “That’s the lady from the accident.”
Her voice tender, Shirah said the woman never came in, nor did she say anything.
But Shirah was touched by her kindness.
While she liked the work her program did for the children, Shirah said she “really liked” the program they had in place for seniors.
In each package that’s sent by the Little Angels to each senior around Christmastime, Shirah said they include a card that says “For someone special” and “From a friend.”
She added that people would ask where the cards came from. She would simply smile and say: “It comes from angels.”
“I know the health care nurses that I helped, they were always telling me how happy people are to get these things,” Shirah said.
“That’s the only reason why I do it, because my husband would’ve had me stop years ago and clean up my living room and put up a Christmas tree,” she added laughing.
Shirah said she wanted to make sure that the children and seniors have a Christmas, as she had been told in the past that for some of these people, it’s the only Christmas they get.
“We’ll have a card that goes out to them and…some of these people just cry because that’s the only Christmas gift that they got,” said Shirah.
Polhamus, who noted that the lodge tries to do what it can to help any worthy causes that its members see, said that Little Angels “has certainly been a really good organization and we think we’ve helped each other.”
For more information about Lancaster Union Lodge #88 and its upcoming events, visit http://www.lancasterunion88.com/.
To learn more about The Little Angels and volunteering opportunities, call Brenda Shirah at 804-580-0715 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.