STATE COUNCIL SERVICE PROGRAM AWARDS - 2002

David Scott, State Program Director

Best Pro-Life Activity Award - Jackson Diocese: Father Robert Reitmeier Council 8848, Tupelo, MS

Respect Life Day

    On January 22, 2002, our council chose to memorialize the anniversary of Roe v. Wade with a full day of positive pro-life activities commencing with a Respect Life Memorial Service.
     The day began early with an ecumenical pro-life demonstration in front of our church.  Our parish youth invited those from other churches to join in a peaceful demonstration (holding signs and waving to passersby).  The church sits on a hill on a very busy street and many of the hundreds of motorists replied with big smiles and honking horns.  Many knights and their families joined in to support our youth.  Both the local newspaper and television station covered the event.
    Immediately following the demonstration the entire group worked together erecting the approximately 500 Crosses for the Innocent.  Our church has a large sign at the street on which we placed a 4-by-20- foot  "Crosses of the Innocent" banner, both in English and Spanish (we have a very large Spanish population in our church).  It was amazing to see mother and daughter, father and son working together to place the crosses.  By 3 p.m. it was time to relax before the 7-p.m. memorial service in the church.
    The service began with intercessions and lighting of candles followed by readings and a responsorial psalm.  Our priest gave a stirring homily directed primarily to the youth (the entire teenage group was in attendance) which was followed by music and a closing prayer.  Following the service the entire congregation was invited to proceed outside to participate in the illumination of the Crosses for the Innocent.
    A small white bag with sand and a votive candle was placed in front of every cross.  It was a sight beyond description ans the hill bit by bit, cross by cross became as bright as daylight.  Every person in attendance was in awe as we stood back and admired the crosses.  The lights burned well into the night.
    The entire day was a success for our church and council in several ways - the Knights became personally involved with the youth and families of our parish.  A large percentage of our membership (beyond the typical core group) got involved.  And our church took a leadership role in the community and made a positive statement about the Culture of Life. The event was a success in every respect and we are already planning for next year.
    A picture is said to be worth a thousand words. One of the oldest and still most successful methods of advertisement is the highway billboard. For a billboard to be effective it must be visible, attractive and short and to the point. Our council is fortunate enough to have our own billboard that is located on a major highway in our area. Department of Transportation statistics show an average of 18,000 cars that pass it daily - more than 6,000,000 yearly. While this sign has been erected for about five years, it is just recently that we had a custom sign made. A vinyl sign, measuring 12- by- 25 feet displaying the simple message,
"All Life Is Precious" sends a fervent proclamation and announces to all the pro-life stance of the Knights of Columbus. This sign was installed in early January 2001 and will remain till early April 2001 and because of its vinyl composition will be used many times over. If just one like is saved the $700 cost will be well worth the money spent.

Best Pro-Life Activity Award - Biloxi Diocese - Oscar J. Gelpi Council 6872, Picayune, MS

Remembering the Unborn

    Council members made and painted 4,400 small crosses that represent the number of abortions that are conducted each day in the United States.  Council members dedicated their time to placing the crosses on our church property to help make our community more aware of the number of abortions that take place daily in the United States.  The local newspaper ran a picture of the crosses and helped make the meaning of abortion much more apparent to those that had never thought about what legalized abortion is doing in the United States.

Best Vocations Activity Award  - Jackson Diocese - Msgr. John J. Burns Council 802, Meridian, MS

Monetary Support of Vocations

    The best thing we do for vocations is provide monetary support.  This year we supported one seminarian by giving him $150.00 a month to help with his many expenses while seeking his goal of priesthood.  We also presented a gift of $ 1,000.00 to a local home-grown seminarian, who was ordained into the priesthood this year and is currently serving as our Associate Pastor.  We also presented a gift of $500.00 to another seminarian who was ordained into the priesthood this year.  In addition, we donated $1,200.00 to the Bishop R.O. Gerow Priest Education Fund this year.  Moreover, we established a Father Daniels scholarship fund to help our youth with financial help in their various vocational endeavors.

Best Vocations Activity Award  - Biloxi Diocese - Sacred Heart Council 12166, Pascagoula, MS
 

Po-Boy Fundraiser for Mexican Nuns

    This vocations project was unique in the fact that it was a joint project between our council and the local Lodge of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks.  This was the first time that a joint fundraiser has ever been done between our two organizations.  In the past, the Elks and Knights of Columbus have assisted each other with Carnival Balls, but never in this type of program.
    A group of nuns from Mexico came to our Diocese approximately 2 years ago.  Since their arrival they have worked diligently covering the entire Diocese serving the Hispanic community.  They have been relying on donations and the kindness of those they have been ministering to, in order to defray their living expenses and traveling costs.  They are currently seeking funds to build permanent living quarters, which would allow them to bring more of their Sisters up from Mexico to expand their work.
Our council teamed up with the Elks Lodge and sponsored a Po-Boy sale to raise funds for the Sisters.  Orders were taken from local professional offices and industrial sites by both Brother Knights and Elk members for approximately 3 weeks prior to the sale.  On the day of the sale, members of both groups met at the Elks Lodge in the kitchen facilities lo9cated there.   Starting at 8 a.m., po-boys were made and bagged up, along with chips and a homemade desert.  Knights and Elks then started delivering the ordered sandwiches to several area offices and businesses in time for lunch.  The quantity and quality of the po-boy lunches were well received and we received many compliments from our customers.
    This combined effort raised over $1,100.00 for the Sisters.  All costs for the fundraiser were split between our council and th Elks, so all of the money taken in was given to the Sisters to aid in their ministry. While this type of activity may mot be that unusual, the fact that our two organizations were able to work together as one and provide much needed funds for the Sisters' continued work in the growing Hispanic community in the Diocese.  Approximately, 30 man hours was put into this very worthwhile effort.

Best Church Activity Award - St. Lucy Council 11904, Lucedale, MS

Coordination of Construction of New CCD Building

Members of Council 11904 coordinated and worked on the construction project for the entire year.  Tasks in the project included:

Projects Prior to Construction
- construction drawing preparation
- construction drawing approval by diocesan architects
- preparation of bid packages for contractors
- preparation of material packages for bids
- review and award contracts to contractors
- land preparation in way of building

Projects During Construction
- coordinate contractors
- inspect each phase of work
- review billing and payment of each contractor
- installation of new underground electrical system
- installation of flooring
- installation of all finish inside and outside work including trim and doors
- landscaping grounds surrounding building

Projects After Construction
- selection and ordering of furniture
- installation of bulletin boards and white boards
- paint exterior trim on building

Summary
- 25 of 40 members participated in some capacity
- over 900 man hours were spent by Knights of Columbus and their wives
- the building cost $250,000
- the "lock and key" estimate by the Dioces was over $300,000
- Knight involvement resulted in savings of $50,000

Best Community Activity Award - St. Therese Council 8285, Jackson, MS

Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Safety Fair

    Mississippi leads the nation in both the number of people who are killed each year from Traumatic Brain Injuries and the rate of incidence per 100,000 population.  In the year 2001, over 980 citizens died and 11090 citizens were injured from a traumatic brain injury.  The largest group who died and were injured were young men under the age of 28.  Traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of death for people under the age of 30 in the United States.  More than 5,300,000 people are currently living with the catastrophic results of traumatic brain injury.  It is know as the ?Silent Epidemic.?  The annual cost to taxpayers for the care of an individual who has survived a traumatic brain injury is more than $200,000 per year which includes health care, lost wages, rehabilitation care home health care and medications.
    In March 2001, the Grand Knight of Council 8285 presented this information to the grand knights of three other councils in the local area.  He made a request for volunteers from his council and the three other councils to assist him in a project called the "First Annual Safety Fair."  The purpose of the Fair was to get the word out about safety for our most vulnerable citizens, our youth and our senior citizens.  These two groups constitute the largest number of individuals who are at risk for a traumatic brain injury.  The goals of the project were to provide a means where safety information was provided to parents and children about safety in the home, community and at school.  More than 30 different non-profit organizations exhibited safety programs throughout the day.  Additionally, every child, adolescent and young adult who visited the exhibition booths was fitted with a free sports helmet.  Senior citizens received information on how to make their homes safe from injuries caused by falls.
    More than 125 Knights and members of their families volunteered to provide manpower for the safety fair.  One council agreed to cook all the hamburgers which were provided to the more than 3,750 people that attended the fair.  Another council sent volunteers to wrap and distribute the food for the picnic as well as serve the beverages.  Brother knights showed up at the fair grounds at 7:00 a.m. to set up the many booths, tents, tables, chairs and recreational equipment that was used throughout the day.  Brother knights and family members received instruction on how to fit the children with the right size helmet and participated in the distribution of the safety information provided by the exhibitors.  Knights and their families provided volunteer services throughout the day and assisted in cleaning up the fair grounds, taking down tents and booths and packing up the remaining materials to be used at the next safety fair.
    These gentlemen and their families spent more than 12 hours that day and served more than 3,000 parents and grandparents, fitted and distributed 750 sports helmets for children, cooked and served more than 7,000 hamburgers, served more than 50 gallons of iced tea, 40 gallons of lemonade and distributed 30 cases of bottled water.  Over 300 bags of popcorn, 400 cones of cotton candy and 25 cases of candy were served to participants in the safety fair.  The day was so successful that the Safety Fair will become an annual event with funds for the project donated by several attorneys and local companies in Mississippi.  The City was so impressed with the project that the 2nd Saturday in May is now declared the Brain Injury Association of Mississippi Safety Fair Day.
    Without the support of brother knights and their families from four area councils, this event could not have been the success that it was.  As a testament to the success of the Safety Fair, in the months after the Fair was conducted, there was a significant decrease in both the number of people killed and the rate of incidence of traumatic brain injuries for the local area that was served by the Fair.

Best Council Activity Award - St. John Council 10901, Oxford, MS

Lessons in Charity Program

    The main charity of our council is a city school for the handicapped.  This city school is the only such school in a 70-mile radius of the city and many rural families are served by the center. Our council sponsored an innovative program so that the knights of our council could relate to the children of the center.  A video of the children's newly learned talents that were acquired with equipment purchased by our council was shown.  This covers one main area of charity of the Knights which is assistance to the handicapped and needy.
    Another primary charity of the Knights of Columbus is support of widows and family.  The next portion of the program provided education to Brother Knights and their families concerning the planning of wills.  Two attorneys provided information on this subject.  The Knights of Columbus Field Agent also attended the program and contributed to this important subject.
    A third primary emphasis of the Knights is family and fellowship.  A potluck dinner concluded our program with fellowship between brother knights and their families.
    The program combined the education and practice of charity in differing forms; that of handicapped awareness, the care of widows and families and the fellowship of brother knights.  Our council was strengthened by this program since charity is the cornerstone of the Knights of Columbus.

Best Family Activity Award St. Paul Council 10216, Brandon, MS

Assistance of a Brother Knight and his Family

    In the Spring of 2000, our council was faced with a critical financial decision involving a fellow Knight.  Our Brother was afflicted with MS (Multiple Sclerosis) for nearly all of his adult life.  As a progressive muscle disease, it had finally left him wheelchair bound.  It became nearly impossible to transport him in the family automobile to scheduled physician appointments, to attend church and to K of C activities that he dearly loved. Clearly, we felt a responsibility to assist our Brother Knight and his family.
    Despite some initial skepticism, our council voted to secure a loan from a local bank for $10,500 and form a committee to locate and purchase a high-rise 3/4 ton van.  The committee finally located a used vehicle and effected the needed repairs and improvements to accommodate our brothers needs.  Also, as if aided by divine intervention, a local RV dealer agreed to sell and install a wheelchair lift for half the normal cost.  The side cargo door had to be raised further, increasing the cost and delay.  However, these challenges could not deter us in our obligation.
    Finally, we were able to present the keys and title for the vehicle to the family.  Needless to say, they were most grateful for this assistance, particularly since their present vehicle was barely operational and there were no funds to repair it.  Thankfully, up until our Brother's death in late 2001, the vehicle served him well, providing safe, reliable transportation without the worry of financial obligation. His widow recently sold the vehicle and used the proceeds to help pay his final expenses and to assist her in getting her life back in order and to help raise their teenage son.
    The project accomplished the following:
- Unified our brother knights to a committed effort to "do the right thing" for our fellow Brother and his family despite the financial risk to our council.
-Successfully planned and secured the needed loan proceeds, purchased and equipped the vehicle while guaranteeing payments of the monthly note.
- Secured financial support for the project from other church organizations and individuals, parishioners, plus officers of our State KC Council.
- Proved to the community and our parish that our local council was committed to assisting those in need.
- Finally, we paid off the debt early.  Furthermore, an additional $1,000.00 was raised which was given to our deceased Brother's widow.
    The project would not have been successful without the help and commitment of all council members, parishioners and concerned benefactors in the community.

Best Youth Activity Award Msgr. John J. Burns Council 802, Meridian, MS

Toys for Hospitalized Children

    Christmas is a joyous time for all, especially children.  Nothing could be worse for a child on Christmas than to be confined to a hospital bed.  Not only does this dampen the spirit of a child, but it also affects the whole family.  Our Council recognizes the need to become involved and help return a little of the Christmas Spirit to these unfortunate children in our local hospitals.
    On Christmas Eve, 2001, seven Knights escorted Santa to the three local hospitals.  Santa, with his bag full of soft and cuddly stuffed animals, walked through the hospital halls escorted by his helpers.  He entered the room of each child in the adolescence ward and words cannot express the joy in the faces of the children upon seeing their unexpected guest.  Not only were the children?s spirits lifted, but in almost every case there wee parents and relatives in the room.  Santa?s presence was enough to let each child know that they would not be forgotten on Christmas.  Before departing, Santa gave each hospitalized child a stuffed animal and in many cases gave one to a visiting brother or sister.  A Christmas card was left with the parent so they would know that it was the Knights of Columbus who took the time to bring a little joy to their family on Christmas Eve.
    This program not only required the valuable time of seven Knights on Christmas Eve but also took several hours of phone calls to the hospitals, news media and shopping for gifts and cards.  Every hour spent on this activity was rewarded with a child's smile.  It also reminds us that a little bit of time means a whole lot to the youth of our community.

Knight of the Year - Raymond Cole, Msgr. James T. McKenna Council 2969, Clarksdale, MS

    This Brother Knight has been a member of the Knights of Columbus since 1958 and a member of the Fourth Degree since 1959, the entire time with the same council.  He has always been active and deeply involved in his council life.  He has held most of the offices in his council and has effected profound changes in his council.
    At one point, the council had become very apathetic, and the council was turning into more of a men's club than a Christian organization.  A move even began to sell the home and disband the council. This Knight went to what should have been the final meeting and made an impassioned speech about the importance of brotherhood and family and commitment to Christian fellowship, with the statement that not only should this council not disband, it should relocate and put the focus on family involvement where it ought to be.  By the end of that meeting, one committee had been formed to find a location for a new council home and another committee to find out about the costs of building the new hall and putting in a swimming pool so families could come there too.  Nothing further was ever said about disbanding the council, and the old hall was eventually sold to help pay for the new one.
    When the architect's blueprint for the new building was delivered, it was so far from the needs of the council that this knight sat down and drafted a new plan himself, one that specifically fit the council's needs.  It was adopted and used.  Not only was the man involved in designing the building, but when it was at last built, complete with swimming pool, he put his self-taught skills as a carpenter into use.  While others were seen enjoying the water and having a good time, he was up on the roof of the pool house building the deck to shade the mothers who had come out to watch their young children while they swam.  He then built the shed to house the pool pump and cleaning equipment, again single-handedly.
    When the council had a herd time raising the money to meet the notes for the building, he started a weekly bingo that was open to the public.  It was expanded to a twice-weekly event, and the council's financial worries were a thing of the past for a long time.  At one point, the council was making over $4000 a week from this project, a minimum of $200,000 a year.  And he chaired this project for over 15 years.  From this money, the council debt on the building was retired, all operating costs were covered in full, charity projects were funded, and people in need in the community were helped also.  New air conditioners were paid for and installed, and an addition to the hall, again inspired by his building design, was completed, this time with an area where teens could meet for Catholic Youth activities.
     With all of this, it hardly seems likely that he could find time to have other community involvement, but he was deeply involved in several important projects.  When the Tootsie Roll Drive was first proposed, the state deputy, this man to spearhead the organizational efforts in this area.  Because he is the father of a child with some severe handicaps, he was already deeply committed to anything that would help handicapped children.  He and his wife had petitioned the local board of supervisors and had gotten their commitment to open a training center for severely handicapped children, those for whom no other educational setting would do.  Within a year of that first step, the center came into existence and later served as the model for others in this area of the state, finally becoming part of the local school district's special education services program when the federal law requiring education for all handicapped children went into effect.  This couple was the ideal duo to spearhead the organizational effort for the Tootsie Roll Drive.  They went around to all the area councils and presented a program to generate interest and commitment to this cause.  They visited all councils within a sixty mile radius of their home and got each council excited about being involved with such a worthwhile program.  At that time, he also had become president of the Association for Retarded Citizens for this county, which had been in a dormant state for years until its reactivation following the opening of the training center.
    During this period, he also became Northern District new Council Development Chairman for the Knights of Columbus, and in this capacity visited church families within a 150 mile radius.  He made the initial contact and was responsible for the development of a Southaven council, and it was his visit that sparked interest in the K of C in the Tupelo area.  Until that time, they had only a men's club.
    Ardently interested in improved health for the poor, he was nominated to a position on the board of directors of our local community health center, a position he has held for over 15 years now.  In that organization, he has been chairman of the budget and building committees, again involved in designing a special project, a new health center for one of the outlying counties served by the health center.  His commitment to that organization stands to this day.
    Despite some serious health problems, he retained his involvement in the local K of C council, and when this council again began to lose focus and its membership, he decided that it was time to get involved once more.  He became financial secretary and started out to purge the rolls.  In his efforts to straighten out the membership rolls, he and the New Haven office representative for this area got on first name terms just through the number of calls he made to try and correct the records.  When all the shots had been fired and smoke cleared, the council had been pared down to the exact number of active members that really were within reach.  He then set out to get more young people involved and did exactly that, quickly reaching and targeting all the young men in the area.  Befriending them and bombarding them with calls and literature on the Knights of Columbus, he got most of them to commit themselves to becoming Knights, then set about organizing the first local K of C exemplification in over ten years.  It set records in this area!  He has since received a Supreme Council certificate of commendation for the outstanding job he did of reviving this council.
     Health problems forced his retirement from the service industry job he held for over forty years, during which he served for over twenty years as an executive board member as well as being the local union representative for his coworkers, taking part in contract negotiations as each contract came up for renewal and acting as an advocate for any of the men who had grieveances with the company.  He now donates many hours to church activities, including a weekly hour and a half in the wee small hours of the morning spent at Perpetual Adoration, and often serving as a substitute for others, again for those early morning hours.  Now that he has the time to do so, he also has been known to provide transportation to a city near us for area people who need medical treatments.
    His involvement with the Knights of Columbus has not ended and his commitment remains strong to his brotherhood, which he sees as a vital force in our church family.  He is content to work from behind the scenes, serving as the need arises and not seeking any higher office in the council.  He feels that there are others who are better suited to those roles; he does not see himself as a diplomat!  But however he sees himself, it is clear that others see him as a deeply committed Christian man, one who is devoted to God, his family, his community, and his fraternal brotherhood, who is willing to stand up for what he believes in, and who believes that the best way to effect change is by being there to have a part in it.  He serves as an example to us all.
    Much of the activities and projects discussed above covered many years of involvement by this outstanding Knight.  However, it fails to reflect what he has done for his council this year.  Prior to him being appointed as Financial Secretary, dues notices were not being mailed out to most of the membership.  The council was truly in a state of decay.  The meetings had become a gathering of about 4 to 6 members.  Limited activities were planned or carried out.  No minutes were being kept.  This Knight helped turn the council around mostly because of his continued involvement.  Our council is now in line to receive several awards at convention, despite being almost inactive for part of the year.  In summary, the activities this year and the history of his involvement in this council, his church, his family, and this community all justify hem being honored as the Knight of the Year.

Family of the Year - Art and Frances Dunn, Father Patrick McAlpine Council 9094, D'Iberville, MS

    Our Council's nominee for Family of the Year is one of those rare situations where the individual achievements of each member are only surpassed by the accomplishments of the family unit as a whole.  The Knight the Ladies Auxiliary member and the Squire are very much active in council, church, community, family and youth activities - each in their own special way and together as a close knit, contemporary household.  He serves as Financial Secretary for the council and Faithful Comptroller for the assembly.  This hard working Knight and his lady in shining armor are class leaders to our parish's high school Confirmation class (he is her assistant).  They are primary examples of a married couple living the teachings of Christian values, and therefore it can be said this dynamic couple lends a positive influence to the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) program.  They are exemplary role models for the youth of our parish to follow.
     In addition to time and effort he gives of himself to the religious education program, this KC even found time to organize and prepare the food during the class retreat.  The inspirational father serves as Eucharistic minister, usher, and Sunday collections counter.  He and his lovely wife are Core team members of our Parish Life Teen Program and support the organization?s social events by preparing the food and refreshments after their Sunday evening meetings.  He plays an integral role as a member of our annual parish bazaar organizational committee, ensuring the facilities are built, grounds prepared and critical steps are planned.  He co-chairs the fried fish booth as well.  This Knights is actively involved in the Boy Scouts serving as a member of the Troop Committee.  The wife is the proactive leader serving as a Assistant Scout Master in the troop.  As with other activities and events, he organized the food preparations for the Annual Blue and Gold Scout Banquet.  Both parents also assist with their son's Squires Circle activities.
     The Knight's lovely wife is an extremely active member of the Ladies Auxiliary who helps organize most of the social events they host and assists in each and every way to ensure these activities are a warm success.  Everyone in the auxiliary and the council had a memorable time at this year?s Mardi Gras booth where she had a hand in organizing the foodstuffs for the day's activities.  As youth liaison for the Auxiliary, this lady provides monthly reports on the many youth activities in and around our church parish and community.  She is also a Eucharistic minister.  Their only child is an active Columbian Squire and is very involved with many circle activities and scores of services they perform.  The son was named Squire of the Month for September 2001 for his "dedication and enthusiastic participation in his circle."  This young man is an active member in the parish Life Teen Program and the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO).  He is a high school freshman actively involved in many activities, including member of the school's basketball team.  His annual participation in our Council's Free Throw championships shows how much he enjoys team sports and competition.  This young Squire has been an altar server since the 4th grade and continues to serve at the weekly school mass.  On any given Sunday, he can be seen assisting with mass and schooling less experienced altar servers when they need it.  His method of coaching is not overbearing but done with the spirit of concern and teamwork.  He assisted his Dad recently with a woodworking project to build shelving for the Saint Vincent DePaul Society and put forth great effort knowing the end result would be helping the needy of our community.  As a member of the Boy Scouts, he holds the rank of Life and will soon begin working on a special project as part of his goal to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.  The special project chosen is to construct a prayer garden in our church courtyard; he will raise the money, design the garden, secure the materials and perform the work.  He believes very strongly in his faith and wants to do something that will help his church family share in that faith.  We sincerely believe this very special family is more than just your average Catholic family.  They foster love and respect; they share of themselves; and they live the virtues of our Order in real time.

RETURN TO MAIN PAGE