On the weekend of Friday, February 19 through Sunday, February 21, 2010, the members of the San Marco Catholic Church Knights of Columbus Council 6344 were posted outside Publix at Marco Island Town Center and at various other business locations throughout the island collecting donations for the Handicapped of Collier County. The Tootsie Roll Drive is an annual event sponsored by the Knights. Donors receive a large Tootsie Roll for their offering and, as I observed, children who had no money to give, still received candy from the Knights.
One of the generous donors was the Sarcona Family from the Hamptons on Eastern Long Island, New York. They are fortunate enough to be living on Marco right now due to the bad snow storms plaguing the north. Mrs. Sarcona brought her granddaughter, Sarina, to Publix for candy and other sweets. Sarina is a four year old who attends the Marco YMCA for day care and other activities. She was one of the happy recipients of a Tootsie Roll!
The San Marco Knights of Columbus Council 6344 was formed in 1972 and the Tootsie Roll Drive began almost immediately after its formation. I interviewed Joe Granda, the current Grand Knight (leader of the Council). We had an extended conversation about the purpose of the Knights of Columbus and their commitment to Church, country, family and community.
Mr. Granda explained that the Knights purchase the Tootsie Rolls as “we participate in a nation wide Tootsie Roll fund raiser. It is to help the disabled throughout the country.” When asked how much money was raised this year, during the course of three days, Mr. Granda proudly explained they raised an enormous “$8,500 for the disabled of Collier County,” and that was just for this year. He also described the Knights’ participation in Special Olympics of Collier County. “We purchase wheel chairs for Veterans and for the disabled with our raised funds. We also give money to the ‘Dreams are Free School’ for children who have mental and physical disabilities.”
During Season, the Knights hold a weekly Bingo on Thursday evening at San Marco Parish Hall, and a Fish Fry throughout Lent. Mr. Granda said “All are welcome to join us on both evenings.”
The Knights of Columbus have a very compelling story about their roots as an organization and charity group. They were formed in the basement of St. Mary’s Dominican Church in New Haven, Connecticut on March 29, 1882 by Father Michael McGivney. The Knights are one of the many contributors to Catholic Charities which is one of the world’s largest providers of aid and funds to people in need including the victims of recent earthquake disasters.