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Knights of Columbus in Cape May County Feed the Hungry and Rock for Kids


Dan Gilliam Junior, now Deputy Grand Knight of his Knights of Columbus council, Maris Stella # 3546, had been helping deliver the knights’ food donation bags to Catholic Charities’ Cape May County food pantry for a while when he began to notice a trend.

“I saw that that food lasted maybe two days. The need in our area, especially here in Cape May County that’s a seasonal community with a lot of unemployment, is so great,” Gilliam said. “You’re not always aware of the things that go on around you. I guess my heart began opening up to that need.”

He decided his council could do even more to battle hunger in the region and decided on a fundraiser. A professional drummer and member of the Cape May County band the Johnny Rockets, Gilliam thought of music, and the Annual Rock for Kids Music Festival was born.

Last June the council held its second annual music festival and saw its attendance double from the first year. They donated $2000 to Catholic Charities’ Cape May County food pantry, money used to purchase food and, in particular, baby formula and diapers for the nearly 350 children the food pantry serves each year. 

The Knights council donated between eight and nine thousand pounds of food last year, thanks to continuous donations by members and the large purchase made each year after the Rock for Kids festival.

Six local bands donated their time for six hours of continuous music. The council building grounds in Erma New Jersey became a miniature fair ground as Knights of Columbus barbecued chicken, hot dogs and hamburgers; volunteers sold raffle and 50-50 tickets; and children enjoyed a train ride, bouncy castle and dunk tank. The council already has big plans for next year’s festival, hoping to move the location to the nearby Cape May County airport and once again double their attendance.

“The Knights of Columbus is a brotherhood. Everybody helps one another and gives what he can,” said Dan Gilliam senior, Grand Knight of the council. “It makes me feel good that my council woks as hard as it does for an entity like Catholic Charities. I can only hope that it gets bigger and bigger.”

The Catholic Charities food pantry for Cape May county, located in Rio Grande, estimates that it serves 550 people food each year, which includes about 130 individuals plus families whose members amount to about 420 people. Those 550 people are served six times a year, returning to the pantry for food every sixty days.

More than 200 jobs held by Cape May county residents will have been lost since January when the fifth Atlantic City casino to close this year shuts its doors in November. But poverty in this county was a problem long before the casino closings, says Cheryl King, the coordinator for Catholic Charities’ family and community services center in Cape May County.

“This is a poor community. People think of Cape May and they don’t think this is a poor area, but we have some of the highest rents, people work seasonal jobs, and there are not a lot of employment opportunities. We have a high immigrant population, and many people move here from other states. A lot of my clients can’t read or write,” King said. 

Lou Ginsberg, an administrative assistant and assistant case manager at Catholic Charities’ family and community services center for Cape May County, lays a firm hand on the sturdy shelves of the center’s food pantry with pride. 

It’s a Monday and the shelves are now well-stocked for the week, with reserves in a back room left from the purchase thanks to the Knights council donation. Families come for pick-up on Wednesdays and soon these shelves will be much depleted. The South Jersey Food Bank is another contributor, as well as St. John Neumann parish in North Cape May.

Ginsburg built these shelves, and stocks them, with help from his brother Knights in the Maris Stella Council. Ginsberg is the chancellor of the council and has been a knight for about 15 years. 

“I have no problem serving our Lord by serving others,” Ginsburg said. “That’s what he asked; ‘Serve me by serving the least.”

The New Jersey Knights of Columbus, particularly those in the Camden Diocese of southern New Jersey, will be honored at the annual Justice For All award dinner on September 25. For more information about the dinner, which benefits the work of Catholic Charities throughout South Jersey, visit



Written by Joanna Gardner

Knights JFA