The Knights of Columbus organization is not unfamiliar with patriotism. Named after Christopher Columbus, the Knights are a men’s Catholic charity organization comprised of 1.8 million members, with local offices in Hoboken, Jersey City, and Union City.
The organization claims to donate $136 million to charity every year, as well as around 63 million hours of volunteer service.
A large branch of the organization, titled the Fourth Degree, is focused on giving back to the community in a patriotic fashion.
“I wanted to see my brothers get the good clothes that I knew we didn’t receive when we were wounded.” – Paul Pinkman
A brief history
For the past three years, the Fourth Degree of councils 3428 and 12769, of North Arlington and Secaucus, respectively, have given their time to the “Sweats for Vets” program, a charitable cause that provides local veterans with much-needed sweatpants.
The program originally focused on providing sweatpants to the local occupants of the New Jersey Veteran Homes, a state-run residence facility that provides veterans with nursing and health care.
All collected sweatpants were then shipped out to five Veteran homes, located in Paramus, Menlo Park, Lyons, Vineland, and East Orange.
This year, however, the Knights have decided to mix things up and take on a new format: helping out wounded soldiers located overseas.
A new twist on an old idea
This year’s “Sweats for Vets” program will help provide sweatpants and sweatshirts to soldiers who have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. The sweats collected will go to troops within the Landstuhl Regional Medical Hospital in Germany, an American-run military hospital that admits soldiers with serious injuries.
“Germany is the most central [location],” said Andrew Ventura, a member of the Secaucus Knights of Columbus. “Anyone that’s wounded overseas usually goes there first. So they’re serious wounds.”
Ventura explained that the soldiers who arrive in Landstuhl were initially treated on location in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Paul Pinkman, a Vietnam Veteran and chairman of the Northern New Jersey Knights of Columbus, originally came up with the new idea for the program.
Pinkman, who had been wounded in the back by the shrapnel of a hand grenade, knew that many of his fellow shoulders from Vietnam had trouble adapting to the cold hospitals in Japan.
“Other guys that I knew went back to Japan and said it was cold,” said Pinkman.
That’s when Pinkman came up for the idea for this year’s program.
“I wanted to see my brothers get the good clothes that I knew we didn’t receive when we were wounded,” Pinkman added.
Beginning to focus their efforts overseas
Although the Knights of Columbus is a charity for Catholic men, anyone interested is encouraged to donate.
“I was brought up always to help one another, treat people as you want to be treated,” said Ventura. “There are so many people in need nowadays with the economy.”
Pinkman mentioned that although many people are in need of help within our own borders, he feels that his efforts are better sent helping the troops that are located overseas.
Pinkman added that he’d prefer the troops to come home so they can continue focusing their efforts on helping people in need on American soil.
“They’re putting their lives on the line,” said Pinkman, “otherwise we’d be fighting for freedom right on our own land.”
Those interested in donating new adult sweatpants and sweatshirts can e-mail Paul Pinkman at email@example.com, or call him at 201-866-8621. The Our Lady Fatima Church, at 8016 Kennedy Blvd. West in North Bergen, is also accepting donations.
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.