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Traditions: Masons serve meals in the Christmas spirit
By Jason Lesley
Phillip Cusick and his fellow members of the Pawleys Island Masonic Lodge have work to do on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. They will deliver meals to the community’s needy because the Meals on Wheels delivery people take those holidays off.
Cusick said it’s a job he plans to keep. His devotion stems from the first Christmas that he and his brother, John, delivered the food to help their parents, Charlie and Flo Cusick, who ran the Litchfield IGA and delivered daily Meals on Wheels.
Cusick remembers going into a house and seeing a woman in a wheelchair. Her daughter recognized the boys and asked her mama if she knew them. No, the woman said, she couldn’t see well enough. They were Charlie Cusick’s boys, the daughter said. Phillip said he remembers the woman saying, “Great God,” and standing up from her wheelchair to give each of them a hug.
“I walked outside and looked at my brother and said, ‘John, what do you think?’ and tears were streaming down his face. He said, ‘Thank God you’re crying too, Phillip.’ Tears were just streaming. I said they’ll never have to ask me to do this again. I’ll do it till I can’t do it any more.”
Cusick said his father was a charter member of the Pawleys Island Masonic Lodge and asked his lodge brothers to provide Christmas and New Year’s meals for people in need in the mid-1980s. “I remember my son and daughter going with Mom and Dad to deliver meals in the late ’80s and early ’90s,” Cusick said. “After Dad died, I was asked if I would take it up. My lodge brothers have been very helpful.”
Cusick’s wife, Peggy, asked about gifts for the people getting the meals when he took over. He had never even thought about it, he admitted. Peggy Cusick was a kindergarten teacher at McDonald Elementary and had her students make little Christmas trees and sign their names on them. She retired after 34 years, and the Cusicks’ daughter, Caroline, a teacher’s aide at McDonald, has taken up the tradition. Kindergarten students of teachers Patty Cumbee, Felicia Lewis and Andrea Amann made hand-print reindeer and Santas this year.
Lodge members gathered Sunday to cook turkeys and ham. They will fix rice and gravy and green beans on the delivery days. Everyone will get a quart of milk provided by Pet, and lodge member Glenn Krechel will make the desserts.
The lodge members have turned the deliveries into a feel-good Christmas tradition. Don Saxon brings his four daughters along every year. “I’ve been very blessed with the people here,” Cusick said.
Most residents never see the effects of poverty in the community: windows and doors that won’t close, letting the cold air in, holes in the floor and empty refrigerators. Cusick remembers one man who had a leg amputated because of diabetes living in a drafty cinder block house. He died before lodge members could return and work on his window and door. “That touched my heart,” Cusick said. “A lot of people around here don’t see that. They come in here on vacation. They love the beach and say that when I retire that’s where I’m going. They don’t see the people living out in the woods in ramshackle houses.
“We are trying to help the people who need it most. We are extremely fortunate where and how we live. The unfortunate out there, they’re struggling.”