Combined effort brings toys and coats for Christmas

Published 6:39 am Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Dozens of children attended an annual Christmas gift giveaway at The Elizabethan Gardens December 21.

Gathering between 6 and 8 p.m., there were more than three dozen children on hand to pick out gifts, a new coat and then handed a gift certificate all designed to make it a very merry Christmas this year.

It was all part of a combined effort between a community outreach program for the Gardens called Joy Night and a Knights of Columbus Coats-for-Kids program.

“We distributed about 36 coats,” said Leo Holland, one of the Knights of Columbus handing out coats Tuesday night. “We ran out of the small and medium size jackets, but the coats that remained are being donated to Dare County Social Services to distribute to needy families in Dare County.”

The Coats-for-Kids program was launched in 2009. According to a Knights of Columbus website, there have now been nearly 800,000 coats distributed in 49 states and all 10 Canadian provinces with 105,192 coats distributed in 1,600 communities throughout the U.S. and Canada during the 2017 winter alone.

A national program for several years, this is only the third annual coat distribution by members of the Holy Redeemer by the Sea Parish in Kitty Hawk. Last year there were about two dozen coats handed out.

While many other councils elect to distribute coats as a standalone event at parish halls, Catholic school gyms or other private distribution sites, here locally a partnership with The Elizabethan Gardens was an easy choice.

“It’s easy to do the program here with Carl Curnutte,” said Holland. “We fit right in.”

Curnutte, executive director for The Elizabethan Gardens, said the Gardens were open to a community outreach program when he came. As a big advocate for charitable community service, it an agreeable match.

“We’ve been hosting Joy Night for 12 years now,” said Curnutte. “There are about 72 or 73 business and individual donors that help make the event happen and Grizelle Fearing donates gift cards every year. So it’s a community effort.”

After walking through an illuminated garden wonderland with Christmas music in the air, children ages 6 to 16 were brought in small groups to a room full of gifts, candy, and a pile of coats. With the help of a chaperon, each child would survey the room and select three or four gifts of their choice, anything off a candy table, a coat and then get a gift certificate.

Curnutte said many of the children are from the Manteo area and part of the Monday Night Alive program. Others are referred by Social Services and Dare County Schools.

More than just a variation of Santa’s Toy Shop, an assortment of food items provided under a large garden tent help keep many of the children and adults occupied while waiting turns to pick out gifts.

Although Santa has made appearances in the past, this year he passed up making a visit due to health and pandemic restrictions.

Most children didn’t seem to miss Santa though. Negotiating the toy room with wide eyes full of wonder, each was offered a chance to try on a new coat. But not every child wanted one and one young girl resisted repeated offers, saying she had just bought one.

It was, overall, a successful evening said Holland, who then explained that providing coats is just one way to help families struggling to make ends meet.

“And where there is a need, there is a Knight,” he added.

The Knights of Columbus is a global fraternal service order of practicing Catholic men that was founded in 1882 as a mutual benefit society for working-class and immigrant Catholics in the United States.

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