The program, called "Change For The Troops," began in January and, as of June 30, has raised more than $87,000, purchasing more than 1,500 phone cards, in increments of 300 minutes.
The plan was instituted by Grand Master Stephen Gardner, whose son Peter is serving in the Air Force. According to the Change For The Troops website, its implementation is simple for any lodge to accomplish:
This is a true grass roots effort. Lodge funds are NOT to be used for this. The source of the funding is intentional; it is to be the pocket change you otherwise would have carried out of lodge and taken home with you. This is deliberate. Each donation is to be given directly from the hands of the individual brothers at our lodges to our troops in harm's way in the combat theaters of Afghanistan and Iraq. Cards will only be sent to our men and women in those two areas of operation - nowhere else. It is to be a conscious reminder of the price our men and women in the armed forces pay every day.
Each month, no matter what the amount of the collected funds may be, the Lodge Secretary is to send a check, issued by the lodge for that exact amount payable to the "Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania Change for our Troops Fund," to the Office of the R.W. Grand Treasurer in Philadelphia. By sending the contributions in each month, this will help to provide a constant and even flow of funding. The funds collected are to be part of the minutes to be read at the next Stated Meeting of the lodge.
Upon receipt in Philadelphia, the donations will be deposited into that fund reserved for that purpose. Records will be kept so each lodge has the full assurance that an individual accounting of their contributions occurs. These records will be updated upon receipt of the contributions, with acknowledgement being sent from the Office of the R.W. Grand Treasurer to the Lodge Secretary via e-mail.
Once a month, calling cards will be purchased in increments of 300 minutes; this amount has been chosen with consideration for the time it often takes for calls to be placed from our military men and women in these remote areas. The volume of cards purchased will be a direct function of the funds collected and sent to the Grand Treasurer. The cards will be placed in individual sleeves, (shown above) and transported into both Iraq and Afghanistan. Once on site, the cards will methodically be distributed to the servicemen and servicewomen of all branches of service.