In the midst of a pandemic, the Knights of Columbus Bishop Rice Council of Hopkinton and Ashland has persevered with its mission to improve the lives of all those living in the community.
The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic organization dedicated to practicing faith in action. Members largely attend St. John the Evangelist parish in Hopkinton.
Hopkinton’s Chris Alicandro, local leader of the Knights, has been at the forefront of an initiative to assist those in need through these challenging times.
“We call it the COVID-19 Helping Hands Program,” he said.
Alicandro made sure the Knights were quick to act when COVID-19 began directly impacting day-to-day life.
“When the pandemic really got serious, a few of us realized that we needed to form a support structure for those most in need, as everything was really falling apart,” he explained. “So, we set up a hotline that actually has a phone number at St. John the Evangelist, and we pushed the message out to the community through word of mouth, through the senior centers, that if folks needed help we had a network of people to help out.”
To be clear, the hotline isn’t for emergencies. But that doesn’t change how many people the group has benefited.
“We organized a team of probably 30-plus people that were Knights, and then also folks from the community, men and women,” Alicandro said. “Some people would call in and say I need someone to pick up groceries or my prescription or take me to the doctor. So, we’ve helped out dozens and dozens of people.”
The COVID-19 Helping Hands Program is only the tip of the iceberg for an organization that annually hosts a number of events.
Many of those events have been canceled this year due to concerns about virus spread. But the Knights have done what they can to adapt.
“Early on in the pandemic we held blood drives hosted by the Red Cross,” Alicandro said. “We had one in Ashland and one in Hopkinton, and over 70 people came to donate.
“Another thing we do is typically during Lent we will stand outside the Evangelist with paper bags and ask people to donate cans. This year we couldn’t do that, so we pivoted and spread the word out through our network that we were having a virtual food for family drive, which ended up raising over $1,500 worth of food donated directly to Project Just Because.”
The Knights also annually run two events for young athletes: a soccer challenge in the fall and a basketball free throw tournament during the winter, after a Hopkinton vs. Ashland high school game.
These events have been postponed along with the organization’s signature event, the Special People’s Field Day.
“The Field Day, supporting special needs in the community, represents a fundamental part of what the Knights of Columbus do,” Alicandro said. “We usually have over 20 athletes and a number of fun activities like bean bag toss, kickball, pony rides and a big barbecue with ice cream, and all the participants get awards.”
Alicandro’s efforts helped his group of Knights receive the Star Council Award, an honor only 12 percent of the over 6,000 Knights of Columbus Councils receive.
“Our basic mission is simply to support our community and the parishes we serve,” he said. “We want to help everyone no matter their faith, religion, political background. We’re here for the community, to help as many people as possible.”
Anyone seeking assistance from the COVID-19 Helping Hands program can call 508-435-3313, ext. 214, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.