WILKES-BARRE ‚?? George Brandt has fond memories of childhood days spent bowling and shooting pool at the Wilkes-Barre YMCA , where sharks honed their game to the point they ‚??could shoot your eyes out for a penny.‚?Ě
Some 80 years later, Brandt still spends several days a week at the Y, helping raise money to offer children the same experiences he had ‚?? minus the pool sharks ‚?? and more. On Tuesday, the organization honored Brandt for his decades of service by establishing a community service award in his honor.
‚??It‚??s inspiring to be able to work with someone like George, and I think he inspires everyone at the Y to continue to work for good in the community,‚?Ě said Kate Rogers, Marketing and Communications Director for the Wilkes-Barre YMCA. ‚??It‚??s incredible to see someone who really gave their whole life to service.‚?Ě
In addition to honoring an individual who demonstrates exceptional service, the award, which was established by an anonymous donor, will provide scholarships for children to attend Camp Kresge in Dennison Township, the Y‚??s summer camp.
It‚??s a fitting honor for Brandt, 87, who remembers Depression-era days when many children played sports in socks because they couldn‚??t afford sneakers.
‚??When I was a kid the membership here was seven bucks a year,‚?Ě Brandt said. ‚??And you couldn‚??t raise seven bucks if you killed somebody because they didn‚??t have 7 cents on them.‚?Ě
Brandt returned to the YMCA after serving in the Navy during World War II, and in the mid-1950s was asked to join the newly formed physical education committee along with long-time Y supporters George Ralston, Tony Thomas Sr. and others.
In 1983 he was tapped to join the organization‚??s Board of Directors, where he served for more than 25 years, and three or four years ago he was named a trustee of the YMCA.
He also attended Wilkes University and worked as a barber until his retirement.
For more than 20 years Brandt has been a vital fundraiser for the organization, calling and meeting with donors who provide essential funding to keep the building open and support activities and membership subsidies. He has volunteered all of that service, and was never a paid employee of the organization.
But Brandt hesitates to take credit, saying that others have worked just as hard. .
‚??There‚??s been a lot of guys over the years here at the Y who have done a lot of good things, and people with money that have been very, very generous; big time,‚?Ě he said. ‚??So it‚??s not one person who did this for sure‚?Ľ If it wasn‚??t for Jim Thomas (YMCA executive director), there would be no magnitude of fundraising at all.‚?Ě
Brandt said he has no plans to stop working for the YMCA ‚?? he doesn‚??t think of it as a job and enjoys the camaraderie he shares with other volunteers, employees and members ‚?? as long as his mind remains sharp.
‚??You have to be on top of your game, otherwise this is not what you want to do,‚?Ě he said. ‚??You have to be very careful when you‚??re asking people for money, and who you‚??re asking. You can‚??t offend anybody. You have to stand on an even plain and you can‚??t get carried away.
‚??As long as you feel well and you‚??re still sharp, it‚??s a good thing,‚?Ě he continued. ‚??Who knows, maybe one day I‚??ll wake up and say, what day is it? Then it will be time to call it a career.‚?Ě
Brandt lives with his wife of 65 years, Elma, in South Wilkes-Barre.