By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
PELLA — Despite concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic would limit their ability to raise money for the annual Campaign for People with Intellectual Disabilities (CPID), Knights of Columbus in Pella brought in record donations this year.
Traditionally, the St. Mary council members take a multi-faceted approach to the campaign, including storefront collections and phone solicitation to businesses and individuals. They also host a weeklong video and radio telethon featuring interviews with individuals impacted by the yearly collection. The council’s CPID collections are consistently among the highest in the state of Iowa.
Initially, the council’s members were not sure they could do the storefront collections, said Joe Lickteig, a KC who helps organize the campaign each year. Some stores initially expressed hesitation, “but once they figured out we had a safety protocol, we were good to go.” Precautions included face coverings, social distancing, having a touchless collection bucket, and sanitizing spray. Stores asked the Knights to set up their station off to the side so they would not interrupt the flow of traffic; Lickteig said this reduced their visibility, but the Knights remained grateful for the opportunity.
The biggest change, however, was moving from a weeklong telethon to a one-day telethon broadcast live on YouTube and the local radio station, KNIA. Lickteig considered this option in the past, but never pursued it. When Michael Fries, a new KC, suggested the idea of hosting a “Jerry Lewis-style telethon” this year, the council decided to give it a try. “It was really his energy and thoughtfulness that made me realize we could pull this off,” Lickteig said. The Knights dubbed the Aug. 25 event a “Pellathon.”
The Pellathon took place at the Pella Opera House. Knights, including State Deputy Paul Lee and District Deputy Paul Falck, practiced social distancing as they took turns on stage making a combined 316 phone calls. Father Troy Richmond, pastor of parishes in Pella and Oskaloosa, also took a turn making calls. Meanwhile, Trevor Castle from KNIA interviewed special education teachers, parents of individuals with special needs, an individual with Down syndrome and her parents, representatives from businesses that hire individuals with special needs, and donors. He also interviewed a representative from Christian Opportunity Center (COC), which supports 100 adults with disabilities. Additionally, local musicians volunteered their talents performing for the virtual crowd.
As pledges came in, the council’s financial secretary, Al Dole, updated totals on the back wall. “It looked like a real telethon,” Lickteig said.
While most of the donations came from outgoing calls, listeners and viewers also called a Knight stationed at the St. Mary church office to make a pledge.
Lickteig said storefront donations were down this year, but thanks to the success of the telethon, the Knights raised about $35,000 — a record total.
On top of that, the Des Moines-based charitable organization 100+ Men on a Mission selected the Pella Knights’ CPID campaign as the recipient of a $10,100 donation, bringing the grand total to just under $47,000. The council splits the CPID funds among Iowa Special Olympics, the COC, and special education programs at Pella Schools and Pella Christian Schools.
One goal the council fell short on this year was securing interviews between COC and local businesses to discuss possibilities for collaboration. Lickteig said many businesses are hesitant to hire anyone at this time, including those with special needs. Still, he is glad the council will be able to give more money to the COC this year, especially since the COC had to cancel its annual golf outing this year.
Lickteig hopes the success of the 2020 Pella Knights’ CPID campaign will give hope to other councils who are struggling to raise money during the pandemic.