When the men of Knights of Columbus Council 11170, a military council, learned that young military families associated with nearby Fort Belvoir couldn’t afford basic expenses, they wanted to help.
They adapted the Knights’ Leave No Neighbor Behind program to assist efforts of Army-related community service. The council’s initial goal was to provide $5,000 in commissary gift cards to these families, but through dedicated effort, they doubled that amount.
The “Leave No Military Family Behind” program led to the recruitment of new members and helped over 300 families during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
Not enough for bills and food
This inspiring initiative began when Knights attending a meeting at the USO noticed that some junior enlisted families were coming to the USO for a free lunch.
Emmett O’Hare, past Grand Knight and “Leave No Military Family Behind” program coordinator, said, “We overheard them telling their children to eat what they can because that would be the only meal they will have that day.”
The Knights inquired, and the USO director explained that many of the lower ranking military families could not afford to buy enough food and also pay their bills each month. So they went to various places that had free lunches.
The Council made contact with the Fort Belvoir Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Director and learned that there is a significant need to help these families and that at least 25% of the military families at Fort Belvoir were in that same predicament, with not enough money to pay their bills and put food on the table for their families.
“The Knights immediately agreed to take action to help them,” O’Hare said. “We modified the Supreme Knights of Columbus program ‘Leave No Neighbor Behind’ to be ‘Leave No Military Family Behind.’”
Gift card donations
The Knights investigated and found that there was a program to help these families managed by the Army Community Services, which provided commissary (military base grocery store) gift cards to those needy families. Unfortunately, the Knights also learned that because of COVID (and now major inflation), the ACS Program ran out of money to help them.
So the Knights worked out a program to get commissary gift cards donated. The Council received permission to solicit those donations of Commissary Gift Cards at the base commissary.
“Knights designed an advertising and awareness program to alert all commissary users of the predicament and, more importantly, of the potential solution,” he said.
The awareness program and the collection efforts resulted in more than $10,000 in Commissary Gift Cards being donated.
More than 30 Knights plus other members of the Catholic community and all faith communities at Fort Belvoir helped to generate this amazing support package, which helped over 300 families to put food on their table.
The program is underway again this year in hopes of supporting as many families this year as were helped in 2021.
“The Fort Belvoir Knights of Columbus is a Catholic organization that proudly supports the Catholic Priests and Catholic programs at Fort Belvoir,” O’Hare said, “But just as importantly, we provide programs to support all military families and individuals at Fort Belvoir and all of the Faith Based Organizations located on the base. We are all one military family and we will never Leave Any Military Family Behind.”