It never ceases to amaze Kevin Gearey how this community comes together.
Gearey is the point man on the annual Knights of Columbus Hamper Fund initiative, which celebrated its 45th anniversary this past weekend as more than 1,000 more deliveries of food and toys were made to homes throughout our community.
“It went really, really well. We had an incredible number of volunteers on the day doing the ‘shopping’ and certainly had no shortage of drivers,” Gearey says. “When the dust settled, we’d delivered 1,155 hampers.”
Just over 60 of those hampers came back to the depot, as the intended recipients weren’t home to receive them, but Gearey says after a few follow-up calls that night and the following day, they’d distributed everything they had.
And in record time, as well.
“I got there on Saturday morning at about maybe 7:30, and we had 27 shopping carts,” Gearey says. “I bet you 20 of those shopping carts already had people with their hands on them ready to go when I got there. There’s a keenness – it’s an amazing community.
“We had all the hampers built by 11:45 that morning. That has never happened before, and I credit that to the fact that there were just so many people there wanting to help.”
In fact, when chair of the Hamper Fund Committee Ken Niesen went out to tell the people still lined up in their cars waiting to deliver hampers that they were done, “some of them were actually upset because they hadn’t gotten their chance to deliver a hamper and they wanted to help,” Gearey says with a laugh.
So, a need was filled and Gearey’s heart, along with those of his colleagues, was filled as well.
“Well, yes and no,” Gearey says. “We still had people coming in long after the deadline asking for applications, and despite taking in something like 65 late applications, and we still had people asking the day after we delivered. But we filled the need we could fill, and we can’t do any more than that.”
After all, Gearey says, they have no more capacity.
“We are as big as we can get,” Gearey says, clearly frustrated that they have reached the extent of what they can do and there are still many in need. “This year we had the old Target building again, but that won’t be available next year, we’ve been told. And we had our office in the old Bootlegger this year, and that’s going to be storage space next year. So every year, the space available diminishes. We’re at the place now where we can’t get any bigger. We just can’t.”
But it’s nothing new for the Knights to not know what the next year will hold for the initiative after the current year ends.
“It’s been like that every year,” he says. “Beggars can’t be choosers, and we go out every year in September and ask for space and find what we can find. It’s always happened that we’ve found a place, so I’m not worried about that. But it won’t be like it’s been the last couple of years with the old Target and its loading docks and storage space.
“That was as good as we could ever get.”
Gearey and his team would like to extend a special thanks to everyone in the community who contributed to the Hamper Fund again this year, particularly the local schools. Many of the elementary schools, he says, collected boxes of food to contribute to the cause, which gives him hope that the giving and caring spirit of the community will carry on in its next generation.
“This is just an amazing place to live.”