Knights of Columbus disperse more than $10k at LAMB distribution ceremony

Published 10:39 am Sunday, February 13, 2022

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The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, distributed almost $10,500 to Special Olympics and to the public school teachers of exceptional children in Dare and Currituck Counties at the annual LAMB distribution ceremony Monday, January 31.

Several dozen teachers, administrators and members of the Knights of Columbus council 8759 gathered in the social hall of Holy Redeemer by the Sea Catholic Church for the LAMB ceremony, which stands for “Least Among My Brethren,” taken from the book of Matthew in the Bible.

The program began in 1960 by Knights member William “Bill” Scott, who had two children with intellectual disabilities. The Scott family desired to fund facilities and organizations who cared for those with special needs. In 1974 Scott presented his program to Knights of Columbus councils throughout North Carolina, where it was unanimously approved and adopted.

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Today, 127 councils throughout the state and more than 16,000 members participate in the fundraiser. The concept is simple – volunteers stand at storefronts in yellow vests and offer a Tootsie Roll in exchange for a voluntary donation. On the Outer Banks, volunteers (Knights, as well as exceptional children, their teachers and their own families) stand in front of Harris Teeter and Walmart at certain times throughout the year to collect donations, 93% of which go directly to local special education programs. The remaining seven percent goes to pay for the Tootsie Rolls, yellow vests and required accountant fees.

The organization has raised more than $23 million for those with intellectual disabilities. According to the Knights of Columbus website, “each local council allocates 85% of its collections for donation to local organizations.” In Dare and Currituck counties, those monies go directly to public school teachers of exceptional children and to the Dare County Special Olympics. Teachers can use the funds at their discretion, purchasing items that will benefit their classrooms or meet a need for a specific student. The remaining portion is distributed by the LAMB Foundation to regional organizations or to organizations that have a special need but no local Knights of Columbus council.

The highlight of the evening was hearing directly from teachers how the lives of their students will be impacted, and what they planned to purchase with the LAMB funds. After a year of hard work on the part of the volunteers, “It is always a pleasure to learn from the teachers how they will use the funds to help them improve their teaching of these young people,” said Knights of Columbus District Deputy 3 Leo Holland, who oversees councils in Elizabeth City, Edenton and Kill Devil Hills.

Jamie Miller, exceptional children director for Currituck County, said at Monday’s ceremony, “The state and federal money [for special needs students] all goes to salary and contracted people. We don’t have a lot of funds to do the fun stuff and meet the needs of our students.”

About a dozen teachers shared what they will be purchasing with their LAMB money. Many will buy books, toys or manipulatives. Jessica Witter from Manteo High School buys baking ingredients for the coffee cart that she runs with her students. The group bakes cookies and delivers coffee to teachers on Fridays, as well as bakes dog biscuits for the SPCA. Donna Wells is buying a neck collar for a student who needs additional support while on the school bus. In prior years, she bought canes and reported that this year they are being used by another student with a similar need. Raleigh Hudock is purchasing resources to “bridge the gap for exceptional students who are still learning virtually.”

In Currituck, teachers are also buying books and manipulatives, as well as a light table for a visually impaired student, and equipment to enhance fine motor skills. Catherine Harrison is purchasing items for her high school class to teach life skills and job skills.

“You’ve financed so many needed pieces of equipment,” said Jennifer Lunceford, an occupational therapist who is purchasing adaptive switches, toys and communication tools for her students.

But for the Knights, the pleasure is all theirs.

“Whatever we can do to help the teachers out. We enjoy doing good work for them,” said active Knights member Mike Muller.

“They have an extremely stressful job,” said Knight Dave Prentice. “I have three autistic grandchildren, and I really appreciate what they do.” Prentice recalled the excellent care and education his oldest grandson received, and how supportive the other students were. “At his graduation, everybody knew him. It was fantastic,” he said.

The Knights of Columbus hope to raise even more money in 2022. They are seeking new locations to post donation boxes, and are always seeking volunteers and Catholic men to join the Knights. Several years ago, the Council 8759 was the top fundraiser in the state and “we hope to get back up to where we were,” said chairman Nick Facci.

With fewer COVID-restrictions, the Knights are planning to get out with their Tootsie Rolls and keep raising money and awareness for those in our community who need the greatest care.