Council 13678 Sends Joy from Wyckoff Parish
For the past three years, the St. Elizabeth of Hungary Knights of Columbus has sent "care packages" to troops bravely serving our country overseas. Since the program's inception, Council 13678 has raised almost $30,000 through the generosity of parishioners and the Knights of St. Elizabeth Parish.
Over 45 large boxes were shipped on Nov. 29 and divided between the 82nd Airborne Division of the 2-319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment (AFAR) in Iraq and Joint Task Force Paladin in Afghanistan. To date, 1,000 packages have been sent overseas by Council 13678.
Joe DeVita, grand knight of Council 13678, led the group in organizing the effort and packaging the boxes. Each contained various items such as pre-paid phone cards, hot chocolate, Christmas cookies and snacks, socks, personal hygiene products and small containers of Tylenol and other pain relievers. Joint Task Force Paladin also requested pens, pencils, writing pads and coloring books for the children who attend schools they are trying to rebuild in Afghanistan. Each package costs approximately $139, including shipping, to send to a soldier.
"The Knights of Columbus does all of the collection, purchasing and shipping. The money comes from parishioner donations and the Knights as well," DeVita explained. Acollection box at the entrance of the church became filled with donations. Rev. Msgr. Donald E. Guenther, pastor of St. Elizabeth Parish and chaplain of the Knights of Columbus Council, continues to be impressed with parishioners' willingness to fund the effort. "The generosity of St. Elizabeth's is incredible and this annual (Knights of Columbus) appeal is another example of our commitment to helping and serving others. The parish continues to demonstrate the actions of stewardship of time, talent and treasure in so many ways," he said.
Sending packages to the troops is the least he can do, DeVita said, for the men and women who are defending our country. He has a personal connection with the armed forces; his son was in the Army and has been home four years. "I hope the packages send the message that (the soldiers) are remembered and we are grateful that they are serving us," he explained.
Along with the Christmas packages, the Knights also donate money annually (usually in the winter/spring) to two Bergen County Marines injured in combat. In early November, one of Marines who received the collection-Sgt. Frank Delgado of Englewood-came back to St. Elizabeth Parish to thank the parishioners.
"This year was a tremendous response from parishioners and I think it was because of Sgt. Delgado," DeVita said. "He wanted to have a career in the military, but was medically discharged form the Marines after being injured. The Knights donated to him at a rough time (in his life) while he was recuperating. Now he has a job in Washington D.C. with the Pentagon."
After hearing Sgt. Delgado's moving testimony, the parishioners were even more inclined to give, Tony de Nicola, Past Grand Knight and Trustee for Council 13678, observed. "Sgt. Delgado appreciated the money we gave him. He received a standing ovation at every Mass he attended and all the parishioners had tears in their eyes when he spoke," de Nicola recalled.
A friend of de Nicola is a colonel in Afghanistan whose soldiers are one of the groups that receive the Knights' packages. "We are in touch through e-mail with the people we send the packages to. The soldiers tell us what they want. The Knights use the money donated by parishioners and buy the supplies in bulk. This makes it easier for people to contribute. There were 35 Knights that helped out in a meaningful way. We all got together at Joe's house to assemble and get the boxes ready for shipping," de Nicola said.
Volunteering and leading a collection for the troops is an expression of the values essential to the Knights of Columbus organization. "The ideals of the Knights of Columbus are charity, fraternity, unity and patriotism," de Nicola said. "You try to run every council in a way that would best help others. Through sending these packages to the soldiers, it is charity and patriotism coming together. These soldiers are giving up their Christmas for us and this is our way of giving Christmas back to them."
Along with DeVita, de Nicola thought of the idea four years ago when the war in Iraq was just underway. "I don't know if any other council in the archdiocese is sending packages, but the concept is not something we thought of," he said. "We are just helping the people who help us and are showing them that we appreciate what they, as soldiers, do for us."
The response from the soldiers who receive the packages has been overwhelming. The Knights receive e-mails and thank-you notes from soldiers who appreciate the small comforts of home sent to them overseas.
"I am humbled when we get thank-you notes from the troops, " de Nicola said. "We give so much less than they give to us. They are in a dangerous place and to receive some comforts from home is the least we can do."