Knights of Columbus members find few takers for free winter coats in Norwich

Buy Photo Sean D. Elliot/The Day Knights of Columbus volunteers, Dan Service, left, and Brian Cofone help Davyana Baez, 8, find a new coat during the Coats for Kids program at the Cathedral of St. Patrick in Norwich Friday, Nov. 29, 2013.

Norwich — More than a dozen disappointed Knights of Columbus members packed up dozens of new winter coats shortly after noon Friday, as few families took advantage of the offer of free winter children’s coats in the group’s annual Coats for Kids giveaway.

The coats will not be mothballed. Klaus Stankiewicz, the state warden of the Knights of Columbus of Connecticut, said volunteers from several Knights of Columbus councils throughout the Diocese of Norwich will take the coats to various parish churches and schools throughout the diocese and will work with human services agencies to bring them to families in need.

This was the first time the Knights of Columbus opened the basement of the Cathedral of St. Patrick for a two-hour open distribution center, but volunteers figured they needed to spread the word more in advance if they decide to try the open house approach next year.

Peter Sonski, spokesman for the Knights of Columbus headquarters in New Haven, said other long established distribution sites in Hartford, New Haven, Stamford, Waterbury and Bridgeport were very busy Friday.

“There are plenty of agencies, social services agencies, they can work with to make sure these coats are utilized,” Sonski said.

Christine Martin of Norwich was the first “customer” Friday. She greeted about 14 Knights of Columbus volunteers as she entered the cathedral basement.

“I hope you all ate well yesterday,” she said before asking for a boy’s coat for her nephew, Shane.

She briefly perused a rack of sample coats to judge his size and decided a 10-12 would be just right. She picked out a blue-gray combination coat.

“You have no idea how much it means to us,” she said, clutching the coat.

Shane loves to play outside, his aunt said, despite the cold weather. He especially wants to jump on the trampoline with his auntie in tow.

“Now, we will play on the trampoline,” she said on her way home.

The state chapter of Knights of Columbus purchased the new coats — 43 cases containing a dozen coats each for the Diocese of Norwich — for coat giveaways in each of the state’s six Catholic dioceses.

The drive was the idea of Supreme Knight Carl Anderson at the Knights’ national headquarters in New Haven. He decided to expand the drive this year, given the need in the state, Stankiewicz said.

“This is the first time we did it this way,” Stankiewicz said, “so people aren’t used to it.”

c.bessette@theday.com

Novalee Sanchez, 9, of Norwich, models a new winter coat for Knights of Columbus volunteer Brian Cofone during the group's Coats for Kids program.
Buy Photo Sean D. Elliot/The Day Novalee Sanchez, 9, of Norwich, models a new winter coat for Knights of Columbus volunteer Brian Cofone during the group's Coats for Kids program.
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