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Sending joy overseas and at home

Brooksby residents’ generosity supports troops, staff

Created date

July 24th, 2014
Lorna Priestley (left) and Dianne Schueler hold pillowcases they prepared to send to U.S. military troops in Afghanistan.
Lorna Priestley (left) and Dianne Schueler hold pi

Brightly colored geometric patterns, fire-engine reds, and plaids nearly leapt out of the box destined for the U.S. military base in Afghanistan. Atop the 40 neatly folded pillowcases meant to replace the traditional “olive-drab” bedding, was a heartfelt note sending well wishes from Brooksby, an Erickson Living community in Peabody, Mass., to the son of one of the community’s beloved staff members. 

A few months before, Dianne Schueler, who lives at Brooksby, read a letter of gratitude from an officer in Afghanistan who had received a colorful pillowcase from a woman in California. 

Dianne reflected on her strong military tradition. Her late fiancé, Chet White, was a marine. Her son-in-law, John King, was an Air Force Pararescue Jumper, and her nephew, Karl Hjerpe, graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and spent 12 years in the Air Force. 

Dianne was compelled to act. 

“When I read that story, I said, ‘You know, that’s something I could do. People at Brooksby Village are so generous,’” Dianne says. 

Without advertising community-wide, Dianne simply asked about 15 of her close friends at Brooksby if they would like to contribute and, she says, “Every single one of them came through.” 

Lorna Priestley was one of those 15. Lorna’s husband fought in World War II for five years, and the couple’s four sons were in the service. “I was glad to do something,” she says of the two pillowcases she made by hand to contribute. 

The package was sent to Sergeant Hank Weinburg, son of Brooksby Catering and Events Manager Paul Weinburg, and his platoon. Hank is on his third tour of duty, after two tours in Iraq. He is scheduled to return home next month.   

“I want Dianne and the team to know that this is greatly appreciated,” Paul Weinburg says. “It makes me feel so good to know that there are so many good people out there supporting our troops, who are away from their families. It just brings a lot of joy to the troops over there.” 

Weinburg knows firsthand—he spent 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, including Operation Desert Storm in 1991. He was also present for the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines that same year. 

Generous family

Brooksby community members generously support various local and national causes, including the annual Operation Troop Support event. Each summer, Brooksby community members typically donate, wrap, and send about 2,000 holiday gifts and cards to troops overseas via the locally run organization of the same name. 

The generosity of the Brooksby community toward his family comes as no surprise to Paul Weinburg, who this month celebrates ten years of service at Brooksby. 

During the holiday season last year, Weinburg’s staff in the Windsor Restaurant and GreenTree Café took it upon themselves to assemble and send five care packages to Hank and his comrades. “They outdid themselves with some of the stuff they sent,” Weinburg says. 

Weinburg and his family are well-known at Brooksby, and not just for Hank’s military tours. Weinburg’s son-in-law is the service manager at Brooksby’s Harvest Grille and store, and Weinburg’s granddaughter is the service coach at the Overlook Restaurant.  

When Weinburg was ill with cancer five years ago, he received more than 600 cards from Brooksby residents and staff. 

“Everybody at Brooksby Village just adores him and appreciates all he does for the residents,” Dianne says.

“We’re a family: me, my staff, and the residents,” Weinburg says. If something happens, the residents always know what’s going on, and they ask if they can do anything. That’s what Erickson [Living]’s all about.”

As Dianne prepared the package for Weinburg’s son, she double-checked each pillowcase to ensure return labels remained affixed to each, an opportunity for the recipients to correspond with those who provided the pillowcases. 

“These are from the residents of Brooksby Village,” she says, adding of the care package recipients, “I hope it puts a smile on their faces. May they all arrive home safely very soon, not for glory or fame; God bless our troops and God bless America.”