December 9, 2022

New Albany Christmas breakfast serves homeless, honors late K of C member

Mike and Toni Broderick pose for a photo on the day of their son Patrick’s wedding in June of 2019. (Submitted photo)

Mike and Toni Broderick pose for a photo on the day of their son Patrick’s wedding in June of 2019. (Submitted photo)

By Natalie Hoefer

When Michael “Mike” Broderick joined Knights of Columbus (K of C) Cardinal Ritter Council #1221 in New Albany more than 40 years ago, his motives might not have been entirely altruistic.

“I think he did it just to impress my dad!” jokes Toni Broderick, neé Tegart. She was dating Mike at the time and later became his wife.

“We hung out at the K of C all the time—it was like our bar!” she says of the council’s century-old building.

Knights of Columbus events, parties, gatherings—you name it, the Brodericks were involved, says member Michael Carter, calling them the organizations “go-to people.”

He speaks particularly of Mike’s love “for this place, for his buddies and helping out,” especially each year on Christmas morning when the Knights offer a hot breakfast for the homeless and others in need.

So, when Mike died from pancreatic cancer in 2019, they renamed the event Mike B’s Christmas Morning Breakfast in his honor.

“You’re going to make me cry,” says Toni when asked what the gesture meant to her. “It’s very touching for me and our two sons. It makes me very happy.”

‘A growing number of homeless’

Toni—and each of her sons on alternating years—still helps organize and volunteer for the event.

“We serve eggs and sausage,” she says. “But it’s so much more than that! We sing songs, play music. We have accordion players. [Those who come] leave with full bellies plus a sleeping bag and backpack with food hygiene items.”

The planning begins in October when she starts gathering items for the backpacks.

When the Knights first offered the breakfast in 2014, they handed out one pair of white socks and one pair of brown jersey-knit gloves to each person.

The next year, Toni recalls, “I got with my friends, and we started gathering hats and scarves to give out. Now we give out nice backpacks with socks, gloves, a rain poncho, hygiene items, canned food, a can opener, and everyone gets a sleeping bag.”

The backpacks also include rosaries made by a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany and blessed by the pastor, plus a card explaining how to pray the rosary.

“Mike was very proud of his Catholic faith,” says Toni, who is still a member of St. Mary Parish in Navilleton where she and her husband were members. “And he was devoted to our Blessed Mother Mary. He constantly prayed the rosary.”

All told, there are 25-30 items in each backpack—with different items for those given to the growing number of children attending the event.

“New Albany has had a growing number of homeless,” says Carter. “We see people with our backpacks in the city all year.”

Toni recalls one man who called the filled backpack “lifesaving.”

“He wanted to thank me for the backpacks,” she says. “He said they saved his and his friend’s life while they were homeless. He said the food, blanket, hand warmers, scarves and socks kept them warm and dry.

“And we put playing cards in the backpacks. He said that gave them something to do.

“His kind words were very humbling and made me cry.”

‘Such big hearts’

The fun begins at 6 a.m. on Christmas morning, when volunteers arrive to “fix the coffee, start the cooking—and turn the heat on!” says Carter.

Meanwhile, volunteers start picking up people from shelters.

“A local Ford dealer supplies two vehicles, and we get another van from Holy Family Parish” in New Albany, says Carter, who is a member there.

“We’re seeing more families, more kids. And we don’t just serve the homeless. We serve anyone in need.”

The doors open at 8:30 a.m.

“We pamper them,” Toni says with joy. “We serve them their food, we bring them their drinks. We spoil them rotten! It’s a real festive environment. Everyone has a wonderful time!”

About 10 people attended the first breakfast, says Carter. Last year there were 100. This year they’re planning for 150.

“We might not get that many, but nothing goes to waste,” says Carter. “We give leftover food and backpacks to a halfway house and take leftover food to St. Elizabeth” Catholic Charities in New Albany.

“It’s not a burden,” Toni says of the event. “It’s a joy to do this. I look forward to it. It’s fun, and people enjoy helping.”

And having the event named for her husband makes the experience all the more meaningful.

“These men [of the K of C] have such big hearts,” says Toni. “My family is very proud of the support we get [for the event] each year from them, our family and friends.”

She calls her husband “a great husband, father, grandfather and friend.” The support her family receives from the Knights and renaming the Christmas morning breakfast in honor of her husband are “definitely a reflection of the love our community felt about Mike.”

(Flashlights with batteries are still needed for the backpacks and may be dropped off after 4 p.m. at the New Albany K of C, 809 E. Main St., in New Albany. To donate financially toward food for the breakfast, write a check made out to Knights of Columbus 1221 with “Christmas Breakfast” in the memo line, and mail it to K of C, 809 E. Main St., New Albany, IN 47150.)

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