Five of Windham County’s local Knights of Columbus councils have joined forces to buy or collect new and used winter coats for local children and adults. More than 750 coats are being given away by the area Knights this year, the eighth year they have done so.
Working for several months, the local councils — which cover an area from Ashford east to Thompson and south to Plainfield and Moosup — bought and donated new children’s winter coats for Kids during the two-part charitable program.
The first part happened on November 27, when more than two dozen members of the Catholic family fraternal group gathered in the parking lot outside the Brooklyn Parks and Recreation Department’s offices on South Main Street to give new children’s coats away.
While the new coats were being given away, the second part of the program kicked in. Used coats, blankets and socks were taken in batches to area non-profit agencies to help needy families. In addition to the used coats, the drive included about 30 used blankets, all clean and in good condition, and more than 100 pairs of new winter socks. It all went to local homeless programs, clothing banks, veterans’ groups and social service agencies. Because of COVID-19 the event was moved outside this year.
Knights wore face masks and gloves and gave coats to recipients who drove up and stayed in their cars, so personal contact was kept to a minimum. Knights asked for each child’s size, then loaded the coats in the trunks of each vehicle. "COVID-19 was certainly a challenge this year,” said Dr. William P. Macnamara, III, of Brooklyn, who serves as the volunteer advocate for the Connecticut State Council of the K. of C. “We adjusted, kept everybody safe and still helped hundreds of local people. Everybody wins.”
In order to find recipients, Knights organizers contacted more than 100 schools, churches and social service agencies throughout the county.
“The Knights of Columbus live by the principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism, and we demonstrated that,” Past Grand Knight and Windham County Coats for Kids Director Clifford C. Soucy, of Brooklyn, said. “It shows what Brother Knights can do when we work together to help people in our community.”
The Plainfield-based Focus on Veterans organization was one of the social service organizations that received donations. The group operates a homeless shelter for veterans, while providing rides to medical appointments throughout eastern and northwestern Connecticut.
Director Richard Conti said the blankets and socks they received from the Knights may seem like a small thing but having them makes a difference. “Veterans don’t want to get something for nothing,” Conti said. “But our guys appreciate what they get. We’re very grateful.”
The distribution program is named in memory of the late Brother Knight Richard T. Brophy, an area K. of C. district deputy and devoted supporter of the program who died in 2018. Councils contributing to and helping Council 49 with the effort included Cargill Council 64 of Putnam, St. James Council 2883 of Danielson, Father William J. Dunn Council 6934 of Ashford and St. Francis of Assisi Council 6999 of Plainfield.
“We’re grateful to all the Knights who came out to do this,” said Connecticut District 23 Deputy David G. Lamontagne Sr., who oversees operations for the state council in northern Windham County. “We couldn’t do it without the volunteers who put out the effort.”
Coats for Kids began 10 years ago, when the worldwide Knights of Columbus recognized the needs of children in the United States and Canada who were living in extreme poverty. Since 2009, Knights have bought and donated more than 660,000 new coats to needy children in 49 states and all 10 provinces in Canada.
By John Ryan