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Brashinger: St. Mary Knights of Columbus keep helping out

Citizens hold three 24 new winter coats donated pantry for needy families as part international Knights' 'Coats for Kids' campaign.

Citizens hold three of the 24 new winter coats donated to the pantry for needy families as part of the international Knights' "Coats for Kids" campaign. | Ginger Brashinger ~ For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 30, 2014 6:17AM



The Knights of Columbus of St. Mary Catholic Church in Mokena will hit the ground running in 2014 even as the group winds 2013’s activities down.

Half a dozen annual fundraisers help the organization provide funds, food and life’s necessities for those in need — mostly benefiting people in the area, said Joe Kral, a previous Knights of Columbus officer and current program director.

One fundraiser, commonly known as the “Tootsie Roll” street collection, is actually the Intellectual Disability Drive, Kral said. This year, the St. Mary Knights divided the total collection of $5,394 among Special Camps for Special Citizens, Deaf Apostolate, Lincoln-Way Special Ed Cooperative, Joliet Diocese Religious Education for people with disabilities, the St. Mary Reach program and Trinity Christian Services.

“Almost 100 percent of what we raise (at each fundraiser) goes back to the charity,” Kral said.

Many of the fundraisers benefit the Frankfort Township Food Pantry, which Kral said the St. Mary Knights have “adopted.” He said for about four years, the Knights have allocated $200 per month for the pantry, often in the form of gift cards to local grocery stores.

“We like helping out like this as long as our money holds out, and that depends on profits of the fundraisers,” Kral said.

An international Knights of Columbus program, and one that Kral would like to see grow locally, is “Coats for Kids,” a winter coat collection that recently collected 24 new coats delivered to the food pantry for distribution to those in need.

Funds from a pizza night fundraiser that offers pizza donated by Mokena pizzerias benefit the food pantry, too.

“Every dollar that comes in goes to the food pantry,” Kral said.

He said the St. Mary Knights would like more people to attend the group’s family meal fundraisers to increase the amount of money that can be donated to charities.

“Everyone’s invited, parishioners and neighbors,” he said.

One of Kral’s favorite fundraisers is the pancake breakfast that’s held three times a year after each of three Sunday Masses. The Knights provide everything, including the manpower, Kral said.

“It’s one heck of a breakfast for $7, including tax and tip,” he said.

As important as fundraising is to the St. Mary Knights, there’s much more to the organization. It also sponsors the youth of the community at events such as local and regional spelling bees, parades, picnics, an annual free-throw contest and Christmas activities.

The group also awards two $500 college scholarships each year and $200 and a certificate to the boy and girl winners of an annual St. Mary School essay contest on the topic of “What a Catholic education means to me.”

Kral said the St. Mary Knights are always looking for new members. Any male 18 or older who is a practicing Catholic is eligible to join, he said.

On Jan. 1, Kral said, the St. Mary Knights of Columbus will begin a mentor program for new members to help them feel comfortable in the organization “that fills your heart and mind with the joy of giving to others and the feeling that comes with making a difference.”

The St. Mary Knights of Columbus will hold its next pancake breakfast Jan. 19. For more information, call (708) 326-9300 or visit stmarymokena.org.

For information about joining the Knights of Columbus, contact membership director Barry Cullem at (708) 829-1265.



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