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K of C makes large donations to help the mentally disabled

December 18, 2013

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The Knights of Columbus gave checks worth $1,629 each to two local organizations helping improve the quality of life for the mentally handicapped. Pictured are Grand Knight Ken Warzybok; Vocation Chairman Joe Gomez; Sandy Gillis, secretary with Parents Who Care; and Russ Kreinbring, St. Francis Camp on the Lake board president.

ROSEVILLE — Members of the Knights of Columbus group in Roseville went above and beyond their annual Tootsie Roll drive to help out mentally handicapped children and adults this year.

Organizer and Vocation Chairman Joe Gomez said the group sponsored a Motown Revue concert in Warren, featuring the Prolifics, Oct. 18. The concert was set up to raise funds for the Parents Who Care bowling league and the St. Francis Camp on the Lake, two groups that help improve the quality of life for people with mental disabilities.

“It was just something to raise some money for the mentally challenged,” Gomez said. “Sometimes, we don’t get enough money when we do our regular Tootsie Roll drive in the streets, so I thought this would help.”

Gomez said the Roseville Knights of Columbus had done a similar donation program when he had first joined the group and was originally made vocation chairman around 2001, but it ended after only a few years. Now that he holds the position again, he decided to revive the practice.

Planning for the concert started around April, and it was able to raise more than $3,200 to split among the two groups. Representatives from each received their donations during the Knights’ meeting Dec. 11. Gomez said about 235 people showed up to the concert, which he considered a strong turnout.

Grand Knight Ken Warzybok said the Knights of Columbus decided to help out those two groups early in the year due to how helpful they have both been during the Knights’ usual Tootsie Roll drives.

“They are the first two groups that step up and ask, ‘How can we help?’” Warzybok said. “It’s a fine example of charity, because that’s the focus of our order, and it’s an inspiration for us.”

Sandra Gillis, secretary with Parents Who Care, said her organization helps provide fun activities for mentally disabled adults with its bowling league, and also helps its players go to the Fowler Center’s summer camp in Mayville. She said it holds a banquet with awards at the end of each bowling season.

“This will help continue our bowling league and (help) those who are going to camp,” Gillis said. “Thank you from Parents Who Care.”

Russ Kreinbring, president of the St. Francis board of directors, said over the camp’s 10-week season, they have around 35 campers each week. The camp is not free, and last year Kreinbring said they started a scholarship program to help people who are unable to afford the trip.

He said those qualifying people only need to pay $50, and the camp would subsidize the rest of the cost

“That’s what this money is for,” Kreinbring said. “Through the scholarship program, last year we sent about 60 campers who were unable to afford going to camp.”

Warzybok praised the work the two groups are doing, saying that while they are all brothers and sisters in charity, the “real heroes” are the people who do the groups’ kind of work.

The Prolifics concert went over well, Warzybok said, and the band did an entertaining job. He added that Gomez did all the work setting it up.

“I think Joe earned his wings for that,” Warzybok said. “He was really on the ball. He took the bull by the horns and made that happen.”

The Knights of Columbus even honored Gomez as a “knight of merit” during the Dec. 11 meeting.

Gomez said he wants to see the fall fundraisers for local organizations become a regular event, though he does not expect things to be exactly as they were this year. He expects the Tootsie Roll drives to continue in the spring, with different activities taking place in the fall.

“I started the ball rolling,” he said. “I just hope someone carries it on.”

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