Duane Morris — the Knights of Columbus General Program Director for Oregon — expected his wife, Junalyn, to be back from visiting family in the Philippines on March 17. Now, he’s not sure if he’ll see her until June 1.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, her flight out of Manila was canceled as the government issued lockdowns and curfews. Those caught outside after curfew can be arrested and detained, and travel between towns is restricted. The open markets and small grocery stores are only open limited hours with only one person per household allowed to shop for the entire family.
The economic impact of the pandemic has taken a toll, especially on poorer families, many of whom have lost their jobs. Most are unable to buy necessities, even food.
So Junalyn and Duane — more than 6,900 miles apart, with a 15-hour time difference between them — decided that they would help.
The couple have together organized the distribution of food, feeding more than 200 families in three towns in the Tarlac Province of Luzon. They also set aside $200 each from their own stimulus checks to buy groceries. Junalyn has gone door-to-door and utilized the help of several relatives — who are police officers — to set up distribution sites at local town halls.
Some of those helped hadn’t eaten in several days.
“It’s touching to the heart,” Duane said. “Even though it’s a little thing here but it’s something that’s going to help them at least survive another couple of days.”
The Morrises haven’t done this alone. Duane put the word out to Knights around the state, asking for contributions. Several came in, including donations from Knights of Father Baur Council 5416 in Silverton, Ore. Even Duane’s mother donated $100 from her stimulus check to help her son and daughter-in-law’s efforts.
Duane believes this effort fits “perfectly” into the Knights of Columbus’ new “Leave No Neighbor Behind” initiative.
“The need over there is so great,” he said. “We have neighbors here and we have neighbors abroad, so I thought this fit in perfectly, caring for all of our brothers, all of our neighbors and trying to help out whenever we can.”
They are hoping to help other areas and work with local Philippine Knights of Columbus councils as other families have reached out to Junalyn for help.
“Even though it’s a little bit of a challenge for us right now, it’s helping others and so that’s helped us to get through,” Duane said. “Hopefully soon she’ll able to come home.”
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Originally published in a special bi-weekly edition of Knightline, a resource for K of C leaders and members. Access Knightline’s monthly archives