Long Distance Volunteerism

‘The Henderson Brotherhood’

(Left to Right, Rol, Phil and Tom Henderson)


Three brothers, two from Pennsylvania and one from Virginia, joined together to help students living at Scattergood Friends School, in West Branch, Iowa, nearly 1,000 miles away.  It’s a somewhat convoluted but heartening story.  So please read on.


Rolland, Thomas and Phillip Henderson all attended Scattergood Friends School, a Quaker co-educational boarding school for grades 9-12.  Rol graduated in 1953, Tom in 1957 and Phil in 1960.  All left their home town of Paullina, Iowa, at the age of 14.  Each said his good-byes to the rural, public school system serving their town where a single teacher taught three-grades- to-a-room, and each traveled 300 miles to Scattergood in West Branch, where “a world of possibilities opened up to them.”   Although Quaker sponsored, only half of the student population at Scattergood Friends School was Quaker, and for the first time in each of their lives, the boys were exposed to the social and ethnic diversity that lay beyond the town of Paullina.  After four years each graduated and went on to college, married, started a business and ultimately settled on the East Coast. 


Phil, the youngest brother, is currently on the Board of Directors at Scattergood.  During one of the six annual trips he makes to attend board meetings, he heard that the boys’ dormitory was in desperate need of new dressers.  Apparently the thirty-three male students living at the school had been using large, plywood, open framed ‘boxes,’ with make-shift shelves to store their personal belongings, and these ‘boxes’ were really on their last legs.  So, Phil, who also serves on the Board of Directors at Foulkeways at Gwynedd Continuing Care Retirement Community, where his older brother Rol happens to live, asked for his help.   Rol, who is also an Emeritus Foulkeways Board Member, asked middle brother, Tom, a talented, amateur woodworker living in McLean, VA, to come up with a dresser design that they could built, ship in pieces, then re-assemble when it arrived at its destination.  


The solution was easy; the logistics, not so much!


After purchasing the necessary supplies, it was decided that Rol, the eldest brother and an experienced woodworker himself, would divide the construction of the needed 33 dressers, between himself and Tom.  Youngest brother, Phil, was assigned the job of painting the dressers; half would be blue, the other half red.  The dressers would be built in the Foulkeways Woodworking Shop and in Tom’s home workshop in McLean, VA.   Each brother would be responsible for constructing a specific portion of the dressers.  When all the pieces were ready, the dressers would be assembled, painted, then broken down and shipped on pallets, in pieces, to West Branch, Iowa, where Phil would reassemble them and distribute them to the boys --  whenever he was in town for a Board Meeting.  Each time he traveled to Scattergood, he’d arrive a few days early and assemble the pallets of dresser parts into completed units for the boys’ dorm. 


After nearly eight months, a total of 33 dressers were donated by the Henderson brothers to the students living in the male dormitory.  Once distributed, they replaced the makeshift ‘Rube Goldberg’s’ that had been used as storage dressers for years.  The students were thrilled, as witnessed by the smiles on their faces, and the Henderson brothers proved that when they set their collective ‘brotherhood’ in motion, time and distance were a mere inconvenience.




Media Contact:  Nancy Nolan, Director of Marketing & PR

215-283-7072   email: nancy_nolan@foulkeways.org