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Special Pops recipient of Knights of Columbus generosity

By Staff | Dec 22, 2017

Last Friday, the tables were set, the Christmas tree was decorated, Santa and Mrs. Claus were on hand and the snacks were set up on the countertop in preparation for a Christmas Party at the Special Populations complex on Santa Barbara Boulevard.

Events such as this cannot be done without the hard work of the Guardian Angels, a group of volunteers devoted to Special Populations and the adults with special needs in the community, through donating time or collecting treasure.

In turn, the Guardian Angels couldn’t do its job without the help of numerous benefactors and community partners such as the Knights of Columbus of St. Andrews Council No. 7131, who last Friday presented a check to Special Pops for nearly $5,000 to help it continue to serve the special needs community.

Sara Sansone, supervisor for Special Pops, said the Knights, who also sponsored the Christmas Party, have been a tremendous partner for many years.

“We are fortunate to have a lot of organizations that do a lot for us, and we in turn try to volunteer as well,” Sansone said. “I’ve spoken to make caregivers from other areas who said they don’t have anything like this where they were from.”

Richard Hellenbrand, Grand Knight of the council, said every year the organization nationwide does a Tootsie Roll drive to help local organizations, and for the past 30 years the St. Andrews Council has donated its proceeds to Special Pops.

“This year was the best ever in terms of fundraising. We were running out of Tootsie Rolls and were having to go to Publix for more. The demand was high and that resulted in the money we raised,” Hellenbrand said. “It’s something someone appreciates for making a donation.”

Guardian Angel president Vincent Marcucci said the amount raised this year was quite a surprise.

“When we budget things, it affects how we support our people with scholarships, fixing the building, it’s really awesome,” Marcucci said.

The Guardian Angels is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization that raises funds for Special Pops. It has purchased wheelchair-accessible buses and vans, redone the kitchen, provided for a staff position and paid the city for that, and created scholarships for those who can’t afford to come, which Marcucci said is the biggest need.

“If they don’t come here, they’re home watching television. This is a safe place, they’re with their friends, and they’re learning things,” Marcucci said.

The Knights of Columbus fundraiser is among the big fundraisers for Special Pops annually.

The Fashion Show raises about $20,000, while the golf tournament has raised about $45,000.

Nearly 100 members are at Special Pops at any given time, where they learn life skills and employment skills – some work for the city part-time.