By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — Knights of Columbus stood in the St. Wenceslaus parking lot the morning of June 3 to collect bags of cans and bottles from drivers passing through. Three hours and thousands of cans later the KCs loaded up a trailer to deposit the cans for cash. It is an ongoing effort to try to save the lives of the unborn.
On the first Saturday of every month, from 8:30 a.m. to noon, St. Wenceslaus Council 14385 collects $300 to $400 worth of cans and bottles, on average. The deposit money goes to three area pro-life groups: Birthright, Informed Choices and Johnson County Right to Life, according to Grand Knight Greg Brennan. A core group of about six Knights participate in the effort every month, with other Knights volunteering as their schedules allow. Sometimes, Knights bring their children or grandchildren to help. Father Gary Beckman, the parish’s pastor, typically swings by for support as did the previous pastor, Father Mike Phillips. Volunteers enjoy the fraternity and a hot grilled lunch, Brennan said.
The council began the project, KCans4Life, about eight years ago, he added. It was borne of a brainstorming session in which the council decided that can collecting would be an easy way to raise money for pro-life causes. It’s an issue of great importance to the council since two abortion clinics are located nearby. “It’s about the battle against abortion and the culture of death, especially in Iowa City. It’s the fight for the right to life and the Knights have to be visible in that effort.”
The response to the project was modest at first but grew quickly through word of mouth. Brennan estimates the council has raised $34,000 since the project began.
It has also inspired other councils. The project received recognition at the Iowa Knights of Columbus Convention a few years ago. One Knight from the council, after moving from Iowa City to Des Moines, started a similar project in his new council. That council, too, won a state award for its efforts. Knights of Columbus from St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City have also collected cans.
Groups receiving funds from the project come to the council’s meetings about once a year to talk about what they’ve been able to accomplish. Sheryl Schwager, director of Johnson County Right to Life, said the organization is grateful to the KCs helping the pro-life cause. “Donations received from the Knights of Columbus’ KCans4Life are vital in our mission to educate and advocate for the dignity and protection of life in our community.”
Brennan invites everyone to drop off cans and bottles and hopes that more KC councils in Iowa will consider collecting cans as an effective way to raise funds for important causes. “It’s a pretty good return on a low investment,” he said.