New Bedford Knights rev-up relief with raffle

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By Kenneth J. Souza, Anchor Staff

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — The members of the Father Michael J. McGivney Knights of Columbus, Council No. 14557 based at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in New Bedford, recently raised $1,500 to benefit an international K of C fund for victims of recent natural disasters in the Philippines.

The council raised the money by selling raffle tickets for a Vectrix VX-2 electric scooter, which was obtained through the former employer of Grand Knight Steve DaSilva.

“It started back as an aside conversation at one of our council pancake breakfasts in early October 2013,” DaSilva told The Anchor. “I was laid off from work and my company was changing hands. However, as a former employee I could still get my hands on the Vectrix electric scooter at a substantially reduced price. At the next council meeting I offered up as a motion to my brother Knights that we purchase a scooter for a fund-raising effort and the council agreed.”

DaSilva explained that in October 2013 a devastating earthquake had hit the Philippines; then in November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan — which is “Yolanda” in the Philippines — struck the islands.

“I have strong personal ties to the Philippines,” Da Silva said. “My lovely wife Charisma is a ‘Filipina’ and I lived in the Philippines for some time. Concerned about the magnitude of the disaster, I suggested doing the raffle to support disaster relief in the Philippines.”

The Knights of Columbus has a long history of lending a helping hand in such times of distress.

The K of C was one of the first organizations to provide financial support to families of fallen first responders on 9/11, and they led a multimillion-dollar recovery effort in Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Knights were also on the ground with supplies in a matter of hours after Superstorm Sandy devastated the Eastern seaboard.

In 2013, the Knights had already responded to disasters in West, Texas; Moore, Okla.; and Alberta, Canada, donating more than $3.3 million and 18.4 million hours of their time toward disaster relief efforts.

When Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, the Supreme Council had approved $250,000 for humanitarian relief and Knights and their families throughout the order were urged to remember in their prayers all the people affected by the massive storm.

As an incentive to raise a little extra relief money, DaSilva thought a scooter might make for an enticing grand prize.

“The prize was a red 2012 Vectrix VX-2 Electric Scooter,” Da Silva explained. “I had worked at Vectrix as an engineer. Vectrix had its engineering facility in New Bedford, but recently went bankrupt.”

Through his former connections at the Vectrix facility, DaSilva said the K of C was able to get the scooter at a “reduced price” for the raffle.

The two-passenger, 430-pound electric scooter originally retailed for $4,295 according to MotorcyleUSA.com.

But one lucky winner nabbed it for the price of a mere $5 raffle ticket.

“Beth Macaraeg won the prize,” DaSilva said. “She’s from New Jersey. I know her from an international group called Couples for Christ, a Catholic organization established to renew and strengthen the Christian family. The particular group that I belong to consists of all Filipino families, so when I spoke to Beth about the fund-raiser, she was eager to purchase a ticket since she has family in the Philippines and this cause was close to her heart.”

Council No. 14557 managed to sell an impressive 300 raffle tickets, netting $1,500 for the Philippine disaster relief fund.

“We have many local charities that we support including local pregnancy resource centers, veterans’ organizations, and our annual Coats for Kids drive, which gives out about 100 winter coats to kids of families who visit the St. Anthony of Padua food pantry in New Bedford,” said Grand Knight John Martin.

“However, this was unique for us to participate in an international drive established by our Supreme Council which has brought together councils from around the world to support the fund,” Martin added. “We, of course, have contributed to the Supreme Council’s great effort in Haiti and similar drives, but that was from funds we had already raised through our general charitable fund-raising, and not from a specific effort such as this.”

Chartered in 2007, the Father Michael J. McGivney Knights of Columbus council is named after the founder of the Knights of Columbus organization — and it is certainly living up to its namesake’s call to help those in need.

“Father McGivney was a humble parish priest in Connecticut and he was directly involved with helping out the men of his first council and particularly their widows,” Martin said. “The Knights grew when men supported Father McGivney, other parish priests like him and each other. As a fraternal organization we not only support charities but charities that are supported by our members. Our very successful council effort in Wreaths Across America is due to the fact that we all get behind the U.S. veterans in our council who lead us and we follow.”

“When Father McGivney founded this organization in 1882, he did so with the intention of helping those most in need,” wrote Supreme Knight Carl Anderson on the K of C website. “Today we are happy to continue this legacy in numerous ways through our works of charity. But we honor this vision in a special way with our ministry to those affected by disaster. When our neighbors are left with nothing, Knights are among the first to rush in and help them get back on their feet.”

Having a brother Knight with direct ties to the Philippines really hit home with the local chapter.

“We knew that this raffle was important to Steve — he gave it a face and through him the disasters in the Philippines became more real to us than just a passing news report,” Martin said. “Father McGivney’s example and legacy proves that a humble beginning can have very wide consequences for service and charity when assisted by grace.”

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