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A gift of warmth: Knights donate 300 new coats for children in Sterling

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It sounds a little like one of those biblical stories where a small jar of oil miraculously burns for eight days, or five loaves and two fishes feed a multitude. But in this case, a modest Knights of Columbus project that aimed to provide new winter coats for low-income children in the Sterling area ended up raising enough money to buy more than six times as many coats as planned.

“This whole project has been guided by the Holy Spirit,” said David Garmon, who organized the Coats for Kids project for Knights Council 12791 at Our Lady of Hope Church in Potomac Falls. A group of Knights and their families spent a socially distanced Sunday afternoon in the parish hall Oct. 25, sorting and packaging the bright and fleecy fruits of their labor — 300 coats to make this winter a little warmer for children at three Sterling elementary schools and local nonprofits. 

“There are many low-income families in the Potomac Falls and Sterling communities that have scarce resources to cover many basic essentials,” said Grand Knight Jay Tippett. “This is even more true this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on jobs and family income. Families with young children will be struggling even more in these challenging times.”

That’s why local Knights were determined to bring the program to their community this fall, said Tippett, who watched the coat packaging from the sidelines with Father Anthony J. Killian, pastor. 

Coats for Kids is one of several national Faith In Action community programs conducted by the Knights, whose goal is to see that no child in North America goes without a coat during the winter season. Since its launch in 2009, Knights councils have purchased and distributed more than 500,000 new coats for children and teens in the United States and Canada. “This is one of the many ways the Knights put faith into action,” Tippett said.

But local Knights didn’t know how the pandemic would affect their fundraising efforts, which typically focus on organizing parish family breakfasts and an Italian dinner.

“Due to COVID-19 guidelines on social gatherings, we were concerned about being able to raise the necessary donations to meet our goal,” Tippett said. So, the council set what it felt was a realistic target of raising $1,000 to $1,500 and purchasing 48 coats through the program, which buys coats at a discount, in a range of sizes and colors, and ships them directly to local Knights councils.

But total donations came to $8,300, “far exceeding our expectations,” Tippet said. A parish collection Oct. 3 helped boost the amount raised, along with donations from local businesses and matching gifts from some Knights’ employers. 

“I know my fellow brothers really got into this program, giving back to the community, and specifically to helping the most vulnerable of the community, the children,” Tippett said.

Four families, each working at its own table, handled coats for one of the recipient organizations — primarily three public elementary schools in Sterling chosen based on the number of children in subsidized lunch programs, “a marker for need,” Garmon said. The Knights team worked with parent liaisons to determine how many children at each school needed coats and the children’s sizes; two schools will get 60 coats each, the other will receive 80. Also receiving coats will be a Sterling nonprofit, Women Giving Back, which distributes clothes, diapers and other essentials to women and children in crisis. Coats will be delivered in late October and early November.  

Garmon said when the Knights heard how many local children needed coats, they worried that they might not be able to accommodate them all — but ended up having more than requested. The excess will go to Catholic Charities and to families in need within the parish.

“It’s a blessing,” he said. 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020