WATSONVILLE — The Knights of Columbus Council 11804 is known for its annual Tootsie Roll Drive, a six-week effort at five local Catholic churches.
A handful of members gathered at Hope Services in Watsonville Wednesday to give the organization a sizable check from that fundraiser, marking the 15th year in a row the Knights have donated to the organization.
Hope Services serves children and adults with developmental disabilities.
Day Programs Manager Mauna Loa Morris said the $5,500 donation helps her organization fund its myriad programs. It also helps when reimbursement from the state is slow in coming, she said.
“It means that we can do more activities in the community,” she said.
Originally created to provide financial support to members and their families, the Knights of Columbus’ 15,900 councils and 1.9 million members worldwide have long focused on charitable work.
According to the organization’s website, the Knights of Columbus in 2017 donated more than $185 million worldwide, a jump from the year before when it donated $177 million.
The Knights’ charitable endeavors come from four churches in Watsonville and one in Castroville.
“We want to give the money back to our communities,” said Richard Sanchez, Grand Knight of the local chapter.
The drive also gave $1,000 to the Special Olympics, and $3,000 to Gateway Center of Monterey County, a nonprofit organization in Pacific Grove with a similar mission to Hope Services.
Because of these endeavors, Council 11804 was chosen from about 400 chapters statewide to earn the Golden Plaque award, Sanchez said.
Members will travel to San Diego later this year to receive the honor.
“This could not be possible without the support of my brother knights,” Sanchez said. “We want to be good role models for our younger members.”
The Tootsie Roll Drive, so-named for the ubiquitous candy handed out to donors, is not the Knights of Columbus’ only philanthropic activity. The local chapter also participates in the Watsonville Multicultural Celebration, the Our Lady of Fatima Festival and the Coats for Kids program during the Christmas season, Sanchez said.