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K of C ‘Baby Bottle Boomerang’ Benefits Gabriel Project

Photo Provided Faith Hicks, Gabriel Project Northern Programs coordinator, is presented a $4,000 check from the Knights of Columbus, Carroll Council No. 504 of Wheeling. Shown with her are Carroll Council Grand Knight Art Bertol and Council Life Director Mark Basich.

WHEELING — What do baby bottles and the Knights of Columbus Carroll Council 504 of Wheeling have in common? Answer: they both serve the needs of little ones through the Gabriel Project right here in the Northern Panhandle.

In 2017, the K of C Council 504 initiated the “Baby Bottle Boomerang” fundraiser to benefit the work of the Gabriel Project that serves the needs of low-income women and babies. The Knights acquired plastic baby bottles which are handed out among parishioners at the Cathedral of St. Joseph, St. Michael’s and St. Vincent de Paul churches. Church-goers are asked to fill the bottles with change, cash or checks over a several-week period, and return them to the churches for the Knights to collect.

Since that time, the project has raised just over $21,000 for the Gabriel Project. However, the project was interrupted this year when churches closed down for several months at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the setback, the Knights recently were able to present the Gabriel Project Northern Programs Director Faith Hicks with a check for $4,000.

Hicks said the money could not have come at a better time. She said the COVID-19 pandemic has created an increase in need for parents who may have lost their jobs or had hours cut. In addition, Hicks said during the past several months, there was a spike in premature births. And some of those babies were born addicted to drugs, creating the need for more foster parents and supplies.

“We were shut down for some time and we were fortunate the YWCA stepped up for us and was able to give out diapers and wipes,” Hicks said. “Now we are seeing a larger need base for the preemies.”

Currently the Northern Programs Gabriel Project, which is located inside St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church at 1409 Chapline St. in Wheeling, is open from noon-2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Hicks said anyone seeking help or wishing to drop off donations is asked to call ahead at 304-639-5039.

The non-profit, non-governmental organization relies on grants, donations and fundraisers to be able to provide formula, diapers, wipes, cribs, car seats, swings and personal hygiene products for those seeking help. Hicks also said there is a need for emergency placements in foster homes for the preemies and those foster parents turn to the Gabriel Project for help with their need for items to care for the babies.

“The biggest need is money. We need to buy special swaddling blankets for babies born with addiction because they have the shakes when going through withdrawals,” Hicks said.

These premature infants also require specific car seats and they do well in the MamaRoo swings that provide constant motion, Hicks noted.

Hicks said a donate-to-dine fundraiser will be held at Quaker Steak and Lube at The Highlands on Nov. 1 and will benefit the Gabriel Project.

“We are blessed with what we do receive, but the dollars don’t stretch like they used to. The Knights of Columbus donation came at a perfect time,” Hicks said.

Michael Bush, programs director for Carroll Council 503 located on Edgington Lane in Wheeling, said the Gabriel Project is just one of the “life” projects for the Knights. They also are involved with Special Olympics, March for Life, Pregnancy Center support, Novena for Life, Christian Refugee Relief, Coats for Kids, Habitat for Humanity, Leave No Neighbor Behind, and more.

The Knights of Columbus is the largest Catholic fraternal organization with nearly 2 million members.

What it means to be a Knight is spelled out in their motto: “We are Catholic men who lead, serve, protect and defend. We share a desire to be better husbands, fathers, sons, neighbors and role models and to put charity and community first.”

Bush also serves as West Virginia Knights of Columbus State Publicity Chairman. He said new members are welcome to join the Knights and can now do so via the internet.

Go to https://www.kofc.org/secure/en/join/request-contact.html.

Any practicing male Catholic, 18 and older can apply.

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