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Knights of Columbus Candy Drive History

Apr 14, 2005 Knights of Columbus Candy Drive History

Turning rolls of chewy chocolates into a financial boom for organizations that serve the mentally retarded is a wonderful story. These treats bring in nearly $2 million profit annually in Illinois – the home base for the creation of this giant fund raising process run by the Knights of Columbus.

Thirty years have passed since a group of three Knights from a Council in the Chicago area saw a need that was two way: organizations that served people with mental retardation needed money and the Knights of Columbus in Illinois needed a charitable mission to offer their members. The Knights knew that the Lions, the Shriners, the Elks and other fraternal organizations had members who reached out to the community with a determined focused project.

The men had no difficulty determining the target of their fund raising – the money would go to the mentally retarded because one of the group had a daughter who was mentally retarded and recognized that this category of people needed financial assistance. The process that they planned to use was not too difficult either: they would stand in public places with a receptacle and solicit donations for a token product.

However, the product took some thought. One idea was to distribute seed packets of Forget-Me-Not flowers which provided a good marketing slogan “For the retarded-forget me not”. There were concerns however, that many people would not want seeds, would not use them and say no. The next thought was a Tootsie Roll, a well-established candy from a Chicago based company.

The three decided that the Tootsie Roll would be a good item to use because it was a well recognized item with a good shelf life. The next step was to pilot the program in their own K of C Council in Tinley Park. IL.

They picked a weekend, got men from their Council and got the candy from the Tootsie Roll Company. The men from the council stood at busy stores and intersections with a canister and Tootsie Rolls. They asked for a small donation from the shoppers and passer-bys, for each contribution handed out the candy. The first time collection was highly successful, raising over $30,000 for the two day-effort.

With that encouragement the council submitted a resolution to the state K of C convention to have the candy drive become a statewide program. The resolution was adopted unanimously. From that first drive in 1970 with receipts of $30,000, the Illinois councils have increased their annual profit to nearly two million annually.

The campaign has spread to other states when news of the success in Illinois was published in K of C magazines and newsletters. From the efforts of the one council in Tinley Park, IL the drive to raise funds for people with mental retardation has expanded to 44 states.

Our Virginia State Council in 1971 formed the state program known as KOVAR (Knights of Virginia Assisting the Retarded) using the specially wrapped Tootsie Roll as the vehicle to raise funds for the retarded and the collections began in 1972. Since that beginning KOVAR has distributed over Seven Million dollars in Grants and Group Home Loans to over 250 ongoing organizations including the Special Olympics. KOVAR has become the largest private charity supporting the retarded in Virginia. Our Council first participated in 1975 and since then we have raised $390,512. Last year we submitted $23,754.

One of our sources of income toward our goal is your contributions to KOVAR through the annual United Way, Combined Federal Campaign and Combined Virginia Campaigns. Please consider pledging some or all of your annual pledge to KOVAR. The number for KOVAR in this years CFC drive is 5746. If you can’t find the proper number for KOVAR in your United Way or CVC documents please use the following:

            12962 Dunbarton Dr.
            Bristow, VA 20136

If you do make a pledge to KOVAR please give either Tim Cooke or Al Leightley a copy of you pledge so that we can have the documentation to get that credit towards our goal.

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