Locals helping Puerto Rico

St. Kateri Squires pitch in

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  • Brothers Jack and Riley Maldonado with their Puerto Rico relief poster Photos provided

  • Riley Maldonado and his mom Stacy collecting donations outside Saint Kateri parish

  • Squires Will Englehardt, Joe Pauls, Jimmy Bliss, and Paul McFadden volunteering to help the Puerto Rico fundraiser

By Rose Sgarlato

SPARTA — Brothers Jack and Riley Maldonado are making a difference for Puerto Rico, a place dear to their hearts and heritage.

Jack, 17 and Riley, 15 both attend Sparta High School and are members of the youth leadership branch of the Knights of Columbus called the Columbian Squires, all under the Saint Kateri Squires circle #5177. They have been active in the organization for two years contributing their time and efforts in many ways.

Over the last two years, the group’s outreach has gone beyond the Sussex County borders with fundraising efforts to help the earthquake victims in Ecuador in 2016 and in Norcia, Italy in 2017. So when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in late 2017, It was only natural for the Maldonado boys to go back to their Puerto Rican roots, with help from their fellow Squires.

“We see there is a problem and we want to help, especially being half Puerto Rican,” Jack said.

Although they have never been on the island, the brothers would love to go.

“We haven’t been there but it would be great to go and deliver the money raised. Our Dad was born in Puerto Rico and people have been without power for almost eight months. We want to help,” Riley said.

Collections outside of Saint Kateri Parish have yielded over $800 thus far and ongoing efforts are continuing in the community and beyond.

“We attended several masses at Saint Kateri Church along with other Squires and raise money for the cause. We are also hoping to do the same outside Stop and Shop. Mr Cutrone is reaching out to the Essex County Latino Small Business Association. Plus we’re still thinking of other ways. It is cool to know that you can do something to help people in need just by being part of a service group,” said Riley.

The youth group has enjoyed participating in many different initiatives that connect their parish to Sparta and beyond.

“The Squires do a Luminary Night each year, Mother’s Day flower sale, help at Saint Kateri’s Market, and other types of sales. We have also raised money for Ecuador and Italy,” said Jack. “Plus we are involved in a lot of other community events and most recently created a Prayer Garden in honor of our former pastor Father Pat.”

The Puerto Rico mission continues.

Chief Youth Counselor Nick Cutrone said that 100 percent of proceeds will be sent directly to relief agencies and Knights of Columbus efforts on the ground in Puerto Rico. Anyone that would like to help this cause can make a check payable to the “Saint Kateri Squires” and indicate “Puerto Rico Relief Effort” in the memo field. The envelopes can be mailed to “Saint Kateri Squires, c/o Saint Kateri Parish, 427 Stanhope Road, Sparta, New Jersey 07871.

“The Squires focus includes faith, family, parish, and community, ” Cutrone said.

The following information was provided by The Saint Kateri Squires Circle #5177:

"The Columbian Squires are the youth leadership branch of the Knights of Columbus for young men ages 10-17. The Saint Kateri Squires Circle #5177 from Sparta, is the top ranked group in the state of New Jersey based on membership growth and overall volunteerism. Over the last 10 years, the group has raised over $50,000 to help various charities including Family Promise, the Samaritan Inn, the Sparta Food Pantry, the Book Bank Foundation, Alzheimer’s New Jersey, the Gary Sinise Foundation, and many others."

For more information on this project or on the work of the Squires, please contact cutronekofc@gmail.com.

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