The Rolla Knights of Columbus teamed up with Santa Claus Sunday afternoon to give gifts to children who otherwise may not have gotten presents this year.
The St. Patrick’s Parish Rolla Knights of Columbus Council 2627 hosted an event for area children and their families at the St. Patrick’s Parish gymnasium, where children age 12 and under received gifts from Santa.
According to Mike Meyer, Knights of Columbus member, about 100 children were served Sunday.
That is up from 87 children served last year, he said.
Meyer said the Knights approached local food banks for a list of names of children to help this season.
Meyer said because there is a greater need this year, the Knights contacted other groups such as GRACE (Greater Rolla Area Charitable Enterprise) and Shop With a Cop and divided the families up among the groups so a child would get a present with the help of at least one of those groups.
“We wanted to make sure each child gets a present for Christmas. We don’t want to see one child go without Christmas,” Meyer said.
Meyer said the Knights talked with the children’s parents and tried to find what interests each child have.
“We wanted to get something we know they are going to enjoy ... that this is what they want and this will make their Christmas,” Meyer said.
“The children are really what it’s all about,” he said, adding that the parents are grateful.
“People were very gracious and told us, ‘Without you guys, our children wouldn’t have anything for Christmas.’ ... It’s all worth it,” Meyer said, adding that “the rewards are 100-fold.”
Families came up one at a time to Santa to receive their gifts.
Meyer said he, his fiancee, Judy Bell, and Diane Fennewald, of the Knights of Columbus Ladies Auxiliary, spent about six hours shopping for presents.
“I just wanted to give back,” Fennewald said.
In addition to gifts, the children and their families ate a Christmas dinner.
Meyer said he has personally been involved with this program for the last three years, but the Knights have been involved in it for much longer - since about 1979.
This will likely be Meyer’s last year helping with this program, but he expects someone to pick up where he left off.
Individuals and businesses who helped donate included Investment Realty, Phelps County Bank, Hillcrest Drug Store, Colton’s Steakhouse, Reader’s Corner, the Missouri State Troopers organization, Kiwanis Breakfast Club, KZNN/Mike Thompson, Gary Haven, Terry Nadoisai, Ray Sampson, Paul Rothe, Walmart, Pizza Inn, Knights of Columbus Ladies Auxiliary and Ronan and Lynn Ansley.