By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
Hundreds of winter coats have been distributed to children in Saskatchewan through the Knights of Columbus Coats for Kids program, including a recent delivery underway in conjunction with the White Buffalo Youth Lodge in Saskatoon.
“The Saskatchewan Knights of Columbus continue to promote its Leave No Neighbor Behind program in all communities across Saskatchewan while demonstrating our faith in action,” said Saskatchewan Knights of Columbus State Deputy Joseph Riffel.
“As Tribal Chief, I would like to thank Knights of Columbus for providing an opportunity to partner with the Saskatoon Tribal Council and White Buffalo Youth Lodge in a unique opportunity to support children and families with coats during a difficult time for families,” said Chief Mark Arcand.
“This ensures that youth will be a little warmer during the winter months. A special thanks to everyone involved that have stepped up to make a difference in children and families lives, during Covid- 19. We look forward to continuing this opportunity in the future to keep supporting vulnerable children and families,” Arcand said.
K of C State Chaplain Bishop Bryan Bayda of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Saskatoon, and Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon joined members of the Knights of Columbus at White Buffalo Youth Lodge Jan. 29, as hampers with the new coats included were being prepared.
“It really is an honour to participate with the Knights of Columbus in partnering with the White Buffalo Youth Lodge to meet the needs of youth and families in our community during this difficult time of the pandemic,” said Bishop Hagemoen. “It is also great to see the team at the Youth Lodge who work with their leadership to be a tremendous service and support in Saskatoon. A project like this provides inspiration and hope in many ways – again, it is an honour to be involved in some small way.”
K of C State Deputy Riffel described how in December 2020 the supreme office of the men’s fraternal organization created an opportunity for state councils to purchase cases of Coats for Kids with a second case added for free.
“The Saskatchewan State Board, working with the Saskatchewan Knights of Columbus Charitable Foundation put out feelers and ordered additional cases, he said. “Saskatchewan has historically distributed many coats prior to Christmas, but due to the offer, we could not refuse knowing they would be distributed by early fall at the latest.”
A little after Christmas, 100 boxes of new coats were delivered to three locations (two major urban centres and one rural), Riffel said.
“Approximately one third of the cases were quickly distributed to various communities via the councils within a couple days of receiving the case lots. Some went to schools and others to some parish communities for distribution.” However, demand for the remaining cases had dropped, given that individual council funds are low because of COVID-19, and some areas were already saturated from past years’ distribution efforts, Riffel noted.
Knights of Columbus State “Coats for Kids” Chairman Shawn Scherr, knew there was a need to get these coats out in his local community, Riffel said. “He did not want these coats sitting in storage when we all know there is a need in our community. He approached the Saskatoon Tribal Council and met with Chief Mark Arcand.”
The Knights learned that an effort was underway to collect, bundle and distribute some 1,500 food hampers to First Nations peoples in the Saskatoon area with the assistance of a third party – and that there was also a need for winter coats for the children in some of the households receiving these care packages.
Scherr contacted State Deputy Joseph Riffel and Saskatchewan K of C Charitable Foundation President Harvey Granatier to discuss the project.
“We knew these coats were needed now, and instead of saving for the councils to use in the fall, they were best served helping the youth today” Sask K of C Foundation Chair Granatier said. “The Foundation Board of Directors met and unanimously approved the release and delivery of 50 cases to the White Buffalo Youth Lodge. Some coats were immediately put into circulation.”
The White Buffalo Youth Lodge had many volunteers working to support those in the region (in the city of Saskatoon and reserves in the surrounding area) by creating hampers specific to the needs of each family.
“The Saskatchewan Knights of Columbus State Team, the Sask K of C Charitable Foundation and the Saskatoon Tribal Council will continue to work in partnership to order another 70 cases as the need continues, to help serve the needs of the communities in the surrounding areas,” added Riffel.
Founded in 1882 to assist working-class and immigrant Catholics in the United States, the Knights of Columbus includes approximately two million members who put their faith into action through a broad range of charitable causes locally, nationally and internationally with financial contributions and hands-on service.
The Knights of Columbus launched the Coats for Kids program to ensure that children in need would have access to a warm winter coat. Since the program started in 2009, councils have purchased and distributed more than 500,000 new winter coats to children throughout North America.