📷 The Knights of Columbus flag at the 2017 Turkey Shoot and Dinner Fundraiser for Coats for Kids.

By Sarah Champagne, Managing Editor

SOUTHBRIDGE – Although the summer is just winding down and autumn is barely in sight, some charitable groups in Southbridge are already planning their winter and holiday giving traditions. One of those groups, The Knights of Columbus, DeTriana Council 199, is hoping to at least double its efforts from last holiday season.

Last year, the Knights of Columbus in Southbridge was proud to purchase and donate 72 winter coats to local children in need. The council obtained the coats in a bulk discount through a “Coats for Kids” program available to Knights of Columbus groups across the country. The purchase price of the brand-new coats was defrayed by fundraising efforts, including a Thanksgiving turkey shoot and dinner at La Salle Notre Dame, which was held in November 2017.

A surprising thing happened, though; all the coats were distributed within a week of becoming available. Ray Fournier, who is a longtime member of the Knights of Columbus in Southbridge, runs fundraising activities to support the winter coats purchase and distribution program. He and his wife, Nancy, went to pick up the coats last year at a central distribution point and delivered them to Catholic Charities on Elm Street for distribution in Southbridge. They were claimed by families in need far more quickly than Fournier had expected.

“I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at the need for the coats. Between the two pantries at St. John Paul II parish and Southbridge Food Share, we feed hundreds of people every month. So, if the need for food is that great then why wouldn’t the need for winter coats be just as great?” Fournier reflects.

This year, the Knights of Columbus would like to start early in getting the word out, with the goal of distributing twice as many winter coats to local children. One case of coats from the bulk program has 12 coats with a variety of sizes and an equal number of girls’ coats and boys’ coats in each case. Last year, the Southbridge Knights of Columbus was able to purchase six cases at $220 each. This year, they hope to purchase at least 12 cases, knowing that there is at least that much need.

“It’s a big undertaking as 12 cases would cost $2,640, but we need to try and whatever coats we buy would help some of the kids,” Fournier explains.

To that end, the De Triana council seeks out donations from local businesses, civic groups or individuals and families. Fournier points out that a donation of $220 could allow the council to purchase one more case of coats, or two donations of $110 could help toward a case. Even a $20 donation would defray the cost of getting new, unworn coats to kids for winter as well, Fournier points out.

“Maybe we won’t hit our goal of buying 12 cases, but whatever extra we do raise will put a coat on someone’s child that might otherwise go cold this winter if we don’t try,” Fournier explains.

”These kids could be a neighbor or most likely be someone you’ll never know or meet, but we could all get a warm feeling if we pitch in and help keep our kids warm this winter,” Fournier explains.

If you would like to help out, checks can be made payable to Knights of Columbus Council 199 and can be sent to P.O. Box 176, Southbridge, MA, 01550. The Knights of Columbus also expects to hold a fundraising turkey shoot and dinner fundraiser at La Salle Notre Dame later this fall to support the efforts.

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