The Pella Knights of Columbus hope to continue their efforts in raising money to support individuals living with intellectual disabilities through their 21st annual Tootsie Roll drive this month.

Volunteers will be handing out tootsie rolls in exchange for donations at Wal-Mart, Hy-Vee and Fairway on Saturday, Aug. 24 through Aug. 31. Additionally, volunteers will be contacting local businesses by phone for not only donations, but to explore potential job opportunities for individuals at the Christian Opportunity Center.

According to Joe Lickteig, a leader in the Knights of Columbus Campaign for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, the state of Iowa has raised approximately $20 million dollars since the campaign began in 1974. The community has raised approximately $125,000 locally since 1998.

Over the years, coaches and sports teams at Pella Christian and Pella High School have been competing against one another to see who can raise the most money. Last year, the two schools were neck and neck with only $19 separating their fundraising efforts. This year, there are 11 teams competing for a tootsie roll trophy and the honor of presenting funds to special education programs.

“It’s a great way for coaches to get their athletes out in the community to bond in a different way than just on the field,” said Lickteig. “The competition between teams is a pretty neat byproduct of the campaign.”

Lickteig says they’ve double their campaign efforts by reaching out to the community and local businesses through a telethon. Last year, volunteers placed about 160 to 170 calls in a week, with 63 businesses donating money toward the cause.

“This year, we’re going to try to get at least five, maybe ten new conversations started about jobs at local businesses for the COC.”

Money raised will be donated to the Iowa Special Olympics, Pella Christian and Pella High School special education programs and the Christian Opportunity Center. Funds help 33 K-12 students at Pella Community Schools and five students at Pella Christian with level 2-3 disabilities. Additionally, funds will be allocated to Kiwanis in order to fund a future project for a disability park called Wonder Spelen.

“It’s really been a blessing getting to know the interconnectedness between the COC, special education teachers and students with disabilities,” said Lickteig. “Through that, the fundraiser has really grown.”