FRATERNAL SPOTLIGHT: Knights stay true to mission for more than a century
This story is part of our Fraternal Spotlight, a feature designed to highlight the fraternal organizations in the Osceola County community. Organizations are chosen at random for interviews, in which we strive to share their history, mission and outreach with you, the reader. Look for this series each month.
REED CITY — When a group of Catholic men met in a church basement in 1882, they vowed to defend their country, help widows and orphans and put their faith in action to help others.
They vowed to be the Knights of Columbus.
Started by Father Michael J. McGivney, and named in honor of the man who discovered America, Christopher Columbus, the Knights of Columbus has grown to be the largest Catholic fraternity service organization in the world.
“One person and one idea of helping others, and 130 years later you have this large organization that does charity work all over the world,” said Tom Eichenberg, Grand Knight of the Reed City post.
The Reed City Knights of Columbus Post No. 12668 was founded by Father Monsignor Victor Gallager. The group includes 75 members, 35 of whom are active, and gives around $9,000 to the community each year.
“We were founded for charity, fraternity, patriotism and community. Charity is the biggest (priority),” said Richard Karns, who has served in various positions in the organization and now is the recorder.
Eichenberg, who joined the Knights of Columbus five years ago following in the footsteps of his father and a respected neighbor, said being a knight is much more than being a member of a group.
He sees the opportunity to give back to the community as a gift.
“The way I look at it, you have this gift from God. Have you ever opened it? Some people never have,” he said.
When he found himself with some extra time, he decided to use his talents and put his effort into serving as a knight.
The group is for Catholic men over the age of 18 with no criminal record. Once an individual becomes a knight, they will be inducted into the brotherhood with a secret, meaningful ritual and asked to contribute a certain number of hours each year and pay annual dues.
“If somebody has difficulty making a payment, we help them out. We’re brothers and we’re a part of a brotherhood,” Eichenberg said.
Each member of the Knights of Columbus also must uphold a standard of integrity in their personal life.
“We try to be very community-oriented and family-oriented. Our hope is, because you’re a knight, you’re a better man, a better husband, a better father, a better grandfather,” Karns said.
Annually, the knights sell Tootsie Rolls in March to help fund programs to research intellectual disabilities. To raise money for their financial donations to the community, the group holds a summer and winter raffle, selling 500 tickets in the community members who enter to win cash prizes and gas cards. Individuals who purchase tickets can select from a list, the organization they would like their contributions to go to. Organizations who have received from the Knights of Columbus in the past include WISE, Reed City Ministerial Association Food Pantry, Hospice of Michigan, Habitat for Humanity, God’s Kitchen and others.
“We’re always looking for new ways to (reach out) and we’re always looking for people to understand this is an opportunity to support, not just the knights, but a charity that they can pick,” Eichenberg said.
The group meets once each month at St. Philip Neri Catholic Church in Reed City to carry out business, update one another on fundraising progress and review requests for assistance.
“We close a meeting once we start and we have people who are positioned as guards to protect the integrity of it. It’s secret, but it’s not secret to the point where things go on and nobody knows what happened,” Eichenberg said. “By our good works we’re showing what happened.”
When faced with a need that does not fit the mission of the organization to give to financially, the group will donate in other ways.
“A lot of things we don’t give money to, we give what we call sweat equity,” Karns said.
Along with giving money to local organizations in need, the group supports individuals becoming priests.
For more information on the Knights of Columbus outreach or membership, contact Karns at (231) 832-4474.
Knights of Columbus Reed City Post No. 12668
- Established: 1882
- Members: 75 total, 35 active
- Community support: donates $9,000 annually to local organizations
- More information: For more information on the Knights of Columbus outreach or membership, contact Richard Karns at (231) 832-4474.