It is October in Minnesota, which means the temperatures are dropping and it could snow at any minute. With weather like this, Sauk Centre’s Knights of Columbus council does not want any child to go without a coat to keep them warm, and so they are holding their first coat drive the morning of Saturday, Oct. 16, at the Sauk Centre Fire Department. Coats will be given out from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., with sizes for schoolchildren of all ages.

The Knights of Columbus operate under the principles of charity, unity and fraternity; for Danial Krousey, grand knight of the Sauk Centre Knights of Columbus, the event will hopefully showcase the charity aspect of the council to the broader community.

“Charity is number one, a requirement of everybody,” Krousey said. “We want the public to know we’re a charitable organization, leading Christ’s mission.”

On a national level, the Knights of Columbus have been doing coat drives for some time. They have held a drive for every Super Bowl since 2009, going to the city where the game is being hosted and giving away coats to schools there; when the Super Bowl was in Minnesota, the Knights of Columbus gave new coats to all 120 students at the Minnesota St. John Paul II School in Minneapolis. Football player and Super Bowl champion Matt Birk has supported and been a part of these coat drives as well.

Dennis Boeckers, financial secretary for the Sauk Centre Knights of Columbus and regional consultant for the Knights of Columbus Minnesota council, and his wife, Mary, had been talking about doing a coat drive in Sauk Centre for several years. Boeckers brought the idea to the Sauk Centre Knights of Columbus during their July meeting, and they approved the purchase of three cases of 12 coats each, and the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council would match that with three more cases.

However, 72 coats did not seem like enough for a full drive. Boeckers checked with the Sauk Centre Fire Department, the Sauk Centre Police Department and the public schools in Melrose and Sauk Centre, all of whom confirmed there was an ongoing need for children’s coats. From there, Boeckers asked area businesses and organizations if they would be willing to financially support the coat drive.

“It was wonderful,” Boeckers said. “It didn’t take me long to get more than I was hoping to collect. I was hoping to get in the area of 250 coats, and I got well enough to purchase 312.”

Boeckers also got some unexpected donors. When he went to River of Life Church and First Lutheran Church, both in Sauk Centre, he was only intending to ask them for help with spreading word about the coat drive, but they also contributed with their own donations.

The Sauk Centre Fire Department were happy to lend their fire hall as the coat drive’s venue.

“The fire department was very responsive to this,” Boeckers said. “I just called Steve Moritz, our fire chief, and he wasn’t even hesitant about it.”

Thanks to local support, the knights were able to cover the over $3,300 cost of the 312 coats. Getting them all to Sauk Centre took some time due to complications in the supply chain, but the last cases finally arrived early this week. Boeckers stored the cases at his home along with some other cases for a couple other local Knights of Columbus councils. The coat sizes range from 4 years old to as large as teen XL, covering children in all school grades.

Minnesota Rep. Paul Anderson is expected to attend the coat drive, and the Sauk Centre Knights of Columbus have reached out to Sauk Centre’s mayor and city council to see if they will be able to join as well. If this year’s coat drive goes well, the Sauk Centre Knights of Columbus will keep this event going on an annual basis. Any coats left over from the drive will be donated to Sauk Centre Public Schools.

“If we get rid of these jackets without any problem, we’ll try to go bigger,” Krousey said. “After the first time, you normally grow from there.”

Krousey and Boeckers also hope the event will be a good promotional event for their Knights of Columbus council. While they have recently added three new members, they also had 11 members pass away in 2020. Through the coat drive, the Sauk Centre Knights of Columbus want to let the community know what they do.

“My goal is to put the Knights of Columbus out there a little better,” Boeckers said. “I don’t think we’re looked at negatively here, but I do want people to look at us as an organization that does more than hand out Tootsie Rolls.”

On behalf of the Sauk Centre Knights of Columbus, Krousey and Boeckers extend their thanks to the Sauk Centre Fire Department as well as the businesses and everyone who donated to the coat drive.