September 17, 2012 | Volume 87, Number 23
Members of the Knights of Columbus, Bishop Peter L. Ireton Council in Chesterfield County, and their wives who help the homeless family include Jerri Pat MacPherson, President of the Ladies Auxiliary and spouse of Doug MacPherson, Past Grand Knight, seated on bed; David Brennan, Council Grand Knight, and Gene Zimmerman, both holding children. With them is “Mike,” the father of the children.
Knights of Columbus Charity helps homeless family
“M ike,” his wife and their 12 children left Frankfort, Kentucky in late July in their broken-down red van and headed east where “Mike” had been promised employment.
Finding no work, “Mike” had decided to return to Kentucky but had neither funds nor reliable transport. They arrived at the Bishop Ireton Center in Chesterfield County at about 2 o’clock in the afternoon on Thursday, Aug. 2. It appeared that they may have been referred to the Knights of Columbus by a local church group.
“Mike” asked Gene Zimmerman, the Operations Manager for the Center and Knights of Columbus Council 6189, if he might receive some assistance as his van was inoperative. It became evident to Gene that he was witnessing a family in dire need of help.
The family had exhausted what meager funds they had traveling to Virginia. There was no money. The family was homeless, hungry, poorly clothed, tired, without reliable transportation, and rapidly losing hope. Gene immediately contacted the Grand Knight, Dave Brennan, and the Council became energized to perform its mission in fulfilling the first principle of the Order, Charity.
As the council sprang into action, several Knights and their wives, members of the Council’s Ladies Auxiliary, crafted a safety net that would provide food, clothing, shelter, and support for “Mike” and his family, at least for the weekend.
Gene and his wife, Cathy, bought clothing that same afternoon for the family. Bill Bergamini purchased and delivered non-perishable food items. In the meantime, Gene had arranged for three rooms at the Royal Inn Motel where the family would stay until Saturday. On Thursday afternoon, Marty and Bob Prebish purchased vehicle fuel cards, McDonald’s gift cards, additional non-perishable items, diapers and baby food for the family; these were later delivered to the family at the motel on Friday morning by Gene, Marty, and Bill.
Also on Friday morning the Knights delivered breakfast to the family at the motel and Gene purchased a chicken rotisserie lunch.
The van had experienced a broken tie rod and had a defective front tire. “Mike” had received an estimate from a garage on Thursday that repairs would cost in excess of $450. Gene surveyed local repair shops in an effort to locate one that might be more understanding in helping the family return their van to a road-worthy condition. A local mechanic offered to replace the tie rod for $180 and charged nothing to replace the defective tire.
On Saturday morning, the children were able to take advantage of the spacious grounds at the Ireton Center to play for much of the day. It was during this time when the Knights and their spouses became particularly attached to the family, blessed by the warmth of relationships, and able to value even more the humanity of this family group.
Especially significant was the singular role played by Lynn Bergamini in extending her love and maternal care to the infants. The family members were demonstrably attentive to one another, the older ones looking out for their younger sisters and brothers. They were a loving, caring family whose attributes and concern for their siblings made the work of the Council and the ladies all the more rewarding.
While funds in the approximate amount of $1,500 were made available from the charitable and business organizations involved, much of the support provided the family was provided from the personal funds of the Zimmerman, Prebish, Bergamini, and MacPherson families with no thought of repayment.
Altogether, the Knights of Columbus Council #6189, the Ladies Auxiliary, CCHASM, several local retail businesses, and the motel assisted in this most worthy demonstration of the Knights of Columbus Order’s fusion to the principle of Charity and our Catholic conscience.
There is no greater purpose for the Knights of Columbus than its commitment to charity and those in need.