When young Camden Collins traveled with her parish youth group on a summer mission trip to Haiti, she observed with concern how many of the schoolchildren at their sister parish of Sainte-Suzanne had to eat lunch with their fingers or borrow a spoon from students who had finished their meals.
She decided to do something about it. So when she returned home to Florida, she started a drive at Christ the King Parish in Tampa to collect spoons to donate to the Haitian children. She called it “A Shared Spoon.” The idea caught the attention of Joe Stephens, a Knight of Christ the King Council 12165.
“I saw a blurb in the weekly communication at Mass asking for the donation of spoons,” Stephens recalled. “Our council is constantly bombarded by requests for charitable organizations. I thought, ‘Hey, here's a chance to give something directly.’”
From that moment onward, Stephens took the lead in collecting cash donations for the cause. He figured it would be fairly easy – and it was.
“I’m 86 years old, and I've been a Knight for almost 20 years. A lot of people know me,” he said. “So I decided to pass the hat at our meetings, and I collected over $300.”
How did he do this? By passing the hat, literally – his own baseball cap – at meetings of his council and Fourth-Degree assembly.
Cash in hand, Stephens shopped at three different Sam’s Clubs and bought up their entire inventory of spoons – about 2,000 of them. Fundraising efforts among parishioners resulted in the purchase of another 1,124 spoons. That meant there were enough for every child at three Sainte-Suzanne schools to have his or her own. “The rest were distributed to old people who couldn’t come to the church,” he said.
Brother Knight Al Courter went to Haiti with a parish mission to deliver the spoons.
The adoption of Sainte-Suzanne was inspired by a Haitian priest, Father Désinord Jean, who stayed at Christ the King Parish in 2002 while serving as an intern for WBVM, the Catholic radio station of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, whose studios are located on the parish grounds. He returned to Haiti as director of Radio Soleil, a position he held through the devastating 2010 earthquake. In 2016, Father Jean was ordained bishop of the Diocese of Hinche.
Christ the King Parish sponsors periodic mission trips to Sainte-Suzanne, and several Knights of the council have participated in these. Over the years, they and fellow parishioners have managed to collect funds to provide such necessities to Haitians as medical care, building improvements, a water purification system, and even goats for farming.
Assisting Sainte-Suzanne is “a big thing here at our parish,” Stephens said.
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