By Doris Christelis, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Getting presents is always great. But if you ask members of the Knights of Columbus, they would tell you that giving gifts is even better. Jack Williams is a member of the Adelphi Council 4181 of the Shrewsbury Knights of Columbus, an organization dedicated to community good deeds. Williams has been a member of the group for over 50 years and has hundreds of stories about how this Catholic men's fraternal organization has changed the lives of others.
Recently, Shrewsbury High School senior Romaine Campbell, 17, handicapped since birth with an inability to speak, was the recipient of an iPad donated by the Knights. Using the iPad will help this native of Jamaica communicate with others, particularly useful as he transitions to college from high school.
“This is what we do,” Williams said. “Our chapter of the Knights of Columbus reaches out to those with special needs in Shrewsbury and beyond. Romaine is incredibly intelligent and with the help of an iPad, we hope new worlds will open up for him. Our charitable outreach is the most important thing we do. A few months ago we presented a disabled child with a motorized tricycle. Before that, we were able to retrofit a van with a handicapped ramp for someone with special needs in Worcester.”
Williams estimated that over the past 15 years, the group has donated more than $20,000 to the special needs community. In order to fund their benevolent activities, the Knights of Columbus is involved in several area fund-raisers. They are perhaps best known for their annual Tootsie Roll Drive in the fall.
“Local businesses such as Dunkin” Donuts are very supportive of our efforts and allow us to collect donations outside their doors,” Williams said. “We also organize the Spirit of Shrewsbury Road Race each summer, one of the highlights of this town's summer.”
Although planning the road race takes a great deal of effort and a team of dedicated volunteers, Williams is proud of the work that the group does insofar as the money raised by the Knights from the road race supports their special cause – the Shrewsbury special needs community.
Just after Halloween, Knights of Columbus member Rusty Nadeau presented a check from the road race's proceeds at the Yawkey Special Olympics Sports Training Center to the Shrewsbury special needs program.
“In addition, our annual breakfast with Santa for members” kids, grandchildren and special needs kids from the community is coming up on Sunday, Dec. 4,” Williams said. “It is incredibly satisfying to be able to reach out to the special needs community repeatedly through the year. We feel that we have relationships with these kids that last their lifetime – not just once every now and then.”
Retired now, Williams and his wife, longtime residents of Shrewsbury, raised their two daughters in the town. Both of their children are involved with special needs students in the Shrewsbury school system.
Williams is proud of the work the Knights do and feels that beyond the outreach efforts of the organization, the kinship between members is unique. Ranging in age from 22 to 85, the 300 Knights members “get enjoyment from each other and benefit from all of the activities offered at our lodge. Whether it be barbeques, ethnic dances, golf, bocce, poker, or cribbage, we offer something for everyone.”
Adds Williams, “We are always looking for new members that share our convictions and our willingness to help others.”