CHARLESTON — The Knights of Columbus raised a record amount of money this year, bringing in over $360,000 to help children and adults with special needs.
Joseph F. Gubeli Jr., state deputy, attributed the success of their Operation HOPE campaign to the generous spirit of people, even during these tough economic times.
“There’s a lot of people out there who are out of work who’ll still give a dime or a quarter or whatever they have to help,” he said.
The Knights have 61 councils across the state, 59 of which are active, and each one holds fundraisers to help support the program, said Michael W. Telesco, who has been a Knight for 56 years and still serves as president of the Columbus Hope Foundation.
The mainline theme is the Tootsie Roll sale, which operates on a donation basis. Joe Valentino said people will take a Tootsie Roll and donate their loose change, dollar bills, and occasionally, even $5.
Many councils also hold golf tournaments and receive donations from corporations, businesses and families.
Valentino, who is the state publicity director, said councils become more adept every year at raising money and are more motivated each time by the people they help.
Gubeli, Telesco and Valentino sat down with The Miscellany recently to talk about their successful year and thank the people who made it possible.
“The people of South Carolina have opened up their hearts for this program,” Telesco said. “The enthusiasm we have for helping these people is the key.”
Operation HOPE, Helping Other People Everyday, is dedicated to giving mentally and physically challenged individuals the tools they need to lead independent, productive lives. The money goes to over 130 organizations, including South Carolina Special Olympics and numerous local efforts. For example, Bishop England High School in Charleston received $10,000 to help start their Options Program for special needs students, and the Pee Dee Regional Center in Florence recently built a park with handicapped accessible trails and benches.
Gubeli said the Knights are always inspired by the state conventions, where they have the chance to meet some of the people they have helped and hear their stories.
“They talk about their struggles and it brings tears to my eyes,” he said.
Gubeli and Valentino met recently with Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, who has always been active with the Knights. Gubeli said he encouraged him to become a fourth-degree Knight.
Next year, Telesco said they hope to raise $400,000.