by Rose Wagner
Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate with family and friends, thanking God for the blessings of the year.
But Knights of Columbus don’t limit these celebrations to their own families, or even to their own friends. Thanks to efforts by the Knights throughout all 50 of the United States, many will enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving meal or a special celebration. It’s one way we put our faith in action.
Check out what Knights in your state is doing now or has done through the years:
Knights in Fort Paine Council 13152 organize a Turkey Sale every Saturday from Nov. 16 until Dec. 23, in time for both Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. While Council 3989 in Florence, Ala., is sponsoring a Turkey Shoot on the Saturday before Thanksgiving for the 53rd year running.
In collaboration with the Food Bank of Alaska, members of St. Patrick Council 11745 in Anchorage, have been leaders of a project for the past decade with other local K of C Councils, volunteers from the parish community and Catholic Social Services to help families in need select items for their Thanksgiving dinners. After all the families were served, the leftover items are donated to local food pantries.
During November, St. Helen of the True Cross Council 13841 in Elroy, donates turkeys to sell during “Turkey Tuesday” events sponsored by the local Society of St. Vincent de Paul conferences, as well as supports a “Million Meal” campaign that provides prepackaged turkey meals to couples without children and others who may be alone. This Thanksgiving charity comes in the wake of a Rosary Celebration attended by thousands of Knights throughout the state.
Efforts after major disasters inspire even decades later. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, Pine Bluff Council 1153 donated $1,000 to cover the costs of a Thanksgiving meal hosted by Catholic Charities of Pine Bluff for hurricane evacuees in their community. Several dinners were packaged for home delivery, and the remaining food was donated to the Salvation Army.
In Milpitas, Knights of Columbus annually serve thousands of people Thanksgiving meals at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. The Knights, with the help of numerous donors and other organizations in the Bay Area, sponsored the free event for more than 35 years.
Father Bud Raney Council 2160 might not prepare a turkey on Thanksgiving, but they are among the many sponsors of the 2019 Guadalupe Community Shelter's Thanksgiving “Non-Event Charity Ball.” The funds support families without a table of their own or a place to lay their heads.
In New Haven, members of Holy Family Council 8882, located at the Knights of Columbus headquarters, annually delivers truckloads of clothing donated by K of C employees to the local Christopher Martin’s Restaurant. Every Thanksgiving, the restaurant provides packages of canned food, toiletries and clothing to some 500 working poor and homeless individuals, as well as serving them a formal three course Thanksgiving meal.
For more than 40 years, dozens of local religious sisters from the tri-state area of Delaware, Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey have enjoyed an annual Thanksgiving/Christmas bash thanks to Peace Council 4518. Hosted by the Knights and their families, the party — which includes a traditional turkey dinner with stuffing, vegetables and pumpkin pie — has been enjoyed by Sisters of Mercy, Dominicans, Little Sisters of The Poor and many other religious orders.
In Miami, the Wolverines of Belen Jesuit Preparatory School and the Spartans of Monsignor Edward Pace High School have turned points scored on the football field into turkeys for poor families on Thanksgiving. You can watch a video of the competitors participating in the 2016 Turkey Bowl for Charity, an annual event sponsored by Coral Gables Council 3274 that funds the council's Thanksgiving Food Drive for needy families.
At St. Clare’s in Albany, Knights keep the food coming. Local Knights assist each year with Thanksgiving and Christmas meals served by St. Clare’s Community Center, making turkeys and hams for the local community. Behind St. Clare’s is the Neighbors in Need building, where volunteers assist the Franciscan Sisters in handing out food and supplies brought by the Knights.
Knights have worked with Sacred Heart Church in Waianae to help homeless and needy families in Leeward Oahu receive food during past holidays. These food distributions included providing the homeless with hot meals, fresh fruit and other food, as well as offering a day of live music for Thanksgiving and turkeys for Christmas.
The Knights of Columbus at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Boise assist with the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s Thanksgiving Food Box Program, which allows local families, regardless of their circumstances, to celebrate the holiday with a complete Thanksgiving meal. Of course, no story from Idaho — where more than 320,000 acres of land are used to grow potatoes every year — could be complete without a potato mention, and an our Idaho Knights don’t disappoint. In conjunction with the Thanksgiving Box Drive, the Knights hold a Potato and Onion Sale, proceeds of which allows the council to support various charities and organizations in the community.
The Knights at Divine Mercy Council 14463 in Yorkville host a Holiday Help Line to assist hundreds of local families in Kendall Country during the holidays. The help line opens in November to allow families with children or foster children to easily contact the Knights for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, as well as help with Christmas presents and clothing.
Knights from Msgr. William J. Kreis Council 1231 and St. Lawrence Parish, both in Lawrenceburg, took time away from their families on Thanksgiving 2014 to serve 122 Thanksgiving meals homeless people and other people in need in southeastern Indiana. Neat fact: Those who wished to volunteer but couldn’t due to other obligations prayed for the meal’s success.
The Knights of Columbus in the city of Ottumwa have hosted an annual community Thanksgiving dinner, with an estimated 1,500 meals served on Thanksgiving Day. The food, which included turkey, dressing, potatoes with gravy, rolls and dessert, was provided at no charge through the generous support of businesses and individuals in the Ottumwa community. Those who couldn’t drive to the dinner had meals delivered right to their homes.
Councils across the state still host events and fundraise to help those in need. One such event is the Chocolate Advent Calendar Sale and the Turkey Drive hosted by St. Michael the Archangel Council 12577 in Leawood the weekend before Thanksgiving. The proceeds of the calendar sale help support the Coats for Kids initiative, while the Turkey Drive is held in conjunction with Catholic Charities.
The Knights of Bishop William T. Mulloy Council 1301 in Southgate have some sad Thanksgiving Day History: On Thanksgiving Day in 1948, their council meeting place, then in Newport, burned down. But the Knights showed the power of unity and rebuilt by the next October.
When flooding in southern Louisiana left thousands displaced in 2017, Ascension of Our Lord Council 9623 in LaPlace was one of the first groups to respond. Across the region, members helped with rescue efforts and served more than 5,300 hot meals for families. The council provided food baskets at Thanksgiving and truckloads of toys and household items for Christmas.
In Belfast, William Brannagan Council 3942 has helped serve a traditional Thanksgiving meal at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church for those who otherwise would not have celebrated Thanksgiving.
Council 2323 in Derwood often feeds those of their parish on Thanksgiving Day – they have sponsored coffee and doughnuts after their parish’s Thanksgiving Masses in past years. The parish afterwards host an ecumenical Thanksgiving Day gathering with other Derwood Faith Communities.
For decades, Knights of Fairview Council 4044 in Chicopee have conducted a community Thanksgiving dinner. Meals are given to facilities that serve the needy and are delivered to the homebound. Volunteers begin food preparation on Monday of Thanksgiving week, providing meals to the Chicopee Boys and Girls Club dinner that evening. On Thanksgiving Day, the Knights not only prepare and deliver nearly 2,000 meals to the elderly and disabled, they also serve a sit down meal from for people in need or alone.
Knights in Detroit can boast a neat fact about Thanksgiving: Way back in 1917, Knights of Columbus hosted a Thanksgiving Party at a K of C hall that was advertised by the Electric Railway Service newspaper. While it didn’t mention if food was served, we can’t imagine a Thanksgiving gathering without food.
Today, Knights in Gaylord similarly celebrate, hosting a Community Thanksgiving Dinner at their council meeting place that is open to everyone in the greater community.
Father Joseph Linn Council 9140 of Big Lake brought cheer to their community in 2014 by holding a children’s Christmas party and providing 100 Thanksgiving baskets to the needy.
Knights offer the use of their council meeting place in Kiln to the Hancock County Sheriff's Office for hosting a free Thanksgiving dinner for senior citizens.
In 2012, a 30-second Knights of Columbus Thanksgiving Day television message invited the public to support the Knights' in feeding those in need. The spot featured the “Tractor Cruise for Charity” organized by Seisl Council 1121 in the city of Washington. The Traitor Cruise netted 1,000 pounds of food and $19,000 in donations for local food pantries.
Every year, local Knights collect names of families in Ravalli County who need help getting food on the table for Thanksgiving. They then create Thanksgiving dinner boxes with all the fixings for a classic family dinner, including a turkey, stuffing and green beans. 2018 was one of their most successful years yet — they provided boxes to over 100 families across Victor, Corvallis, Stevensville and Florence.
Knights of Columbus in Kearney held an annual free “Community Thanksgiving” in 2017, serving turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, beans, sweet potatoes and salads, as well as other sides.
Knights were among the groups feeding the homeless in downtown as part of the 19th year of a local “Giving Back Monday” program that helped the hungry the week of Thanksgiving 2017. Knights prepared around 300 hamburgers and hot dogs at their church, Our Lady of Las Vegas, and bring them to feed homeless people in downtown Las Vegas.
St. Joseph-St. Raymond Council 6850 in Epping prepare and deliver Thanksgiving Day Baskets the weeks before the holiday.
Rev. Mitchell J. Cetkowski Council 6201 in Jackson is proud of their work around the holidays. Check out their “about us” pages to read how they helped fund Thanksgiving baskets and other Thanksgiving events since 1986 for needy families in the local area.
Las Vegas Council 804 hosts a Family Night Thanksgiving Dinner with turkey, gravy, stuffing and, of course, dessert.
Msgr. Charbonneau Council 258 in Ogdensburg hosted a free Thanksgiving dinner for more than 25 years. With the help of local community volunteers and donors, the council has been able to feed over 18,000 Thanksgiving dinners to those in need.
Thanksgiving is a historical occasion for all Knights in North Carolina: the first Mass for deceased members was said in the state on Thanksgiving Day in 1959, when the practice of saying a decade of the rosary at the meeting was established. Less than 30 years later, in 1981, the Knights held their first Thanksgiving Dinner for Migrant Workers. And 1988 saw the start of a decades-long Thanksgiving used clothing drive that collected more than 35,000 pounds of clothing.
More recently, St. Raphael Council 9880 in Raleigh passed out Thanksgiving Baskets loaded with food to families in need. Check out the council’s slideshow of volunteers helping with the event in 2018.
If you think one turkey is a challenge to cook and serve, try serving 800 pounds of it. That amount of turkey, combined with 450 pounds of ham and 600 pounds of potatoes went into this year’s 35th annual fall dinner hosted by Knights of Columbus members at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Reynolds. The meal is made entirely from scratch, with ingredients for the side dishes — like sweet corn and apples — being home-grown by the Knights and volunteers.
The Mantua Knights of Columbus hosted a Senior Citizen Thanksgiving Dinner each year for 34 years. A full Thanksgiving feast is served, entertainment is provided and door prizes are given.
For almost 4 decades, brothers Al and Leroy Patocka have spearheaded a community meal that serves more than 500 people each year. They got involved years ago when a grand knight of Dr. Francis M. Duffy Council 1044 was running the project. Since he passed away, the brothers have kept on the tradition. Over the years, the two have cooked more than 12,000 pounds of turkey!
Food grown by Tillamook Council 2171 goes to local food pantries to help feed hundreds of people. The Knights’ annual harvest of potatoes, corn, quash and more from the half-acre plot goes to various nearby charities, including the Oregon Food Bank, which supplies food to local pantries run by churches and other organizations during Thanksgiving, Christmas and other times in the years.
Knights from Schuylkill Council 431 in Pottsville, Pa., jumped into action after this single plea: “My family is in need of help for Thanksgiving dinner.” Now, more than a decade later, the council’s Thanksgiving Day operation offers a meal to families and to anyone in need of a free holiday meal. In the past five years, they distributed an average of 1,650 meals to approximately 800 families.
It’s the continuation of a long K of C tradition in the state: Check out this throwback picture of children living in Philadelphia's Catholic Home being served Thanksgiving dinner by Philadelphia councils Charles Carroll, St. Lawrence and San Salvador on Nov. 23, 1939.
The Bishop Hickey Council 3623 in Riverside has held an annual Turkey Raffle, where attendees can win a complete turkey dinner. While waiting to claim a winning raffle ticket, one could enjoy free hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, pizza and coffee.
Local papers don't know the exact number of Thanksgiving meals that Joseph Miguel Ros Council 3067 in Georgetown has served over the last 28 years. But it’s in the thousands! They prepare an entire Thanksgiving meal on each plate and deliver them to people who cannot afford a traditional holiday meal, those who may be alone on Thanksgiving or those who have to work and cannot be with family.
In Rapid City, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Council 1489 has hosted an annual Thanksgiving Dinner for adults, teens, children and families for nearly four decades.
Knights of Columbus from three churches in the Fayette County area may not provide food, but they did provide new coats to 350 children in need during Project Outreach's Thanksgiving and Christmas food distributions. One third of the coats were given the weekend before Thanksgiving, while the others were distributed during Christmas.
In Kaufman County, Father W.P. Pechal Council 11721 collected the names of needy families and worked with the VFW, the Salvation Army and other community groups to provide them toys and food items. When all the goods were collected, volunteers gathered at St. Anne Church to divide the materials equally for each family into boxes containing two toys for each child, a turkey, dinner rolls, vegetables, potatoes, apples and pie filling.
Bishop Joseph Lennox Federal Council 14399 in South Ogden host a breakfast at Holy Family Catholic Church the Sunday after Thanksgiving following parish Masses.
In 2017, the Manchester Center Knights of Columbus donated and delivered Thanksgiving baskets, which included locally grown acorn squash, to 25 Northshire families helped by the local United Counseling Services.
Edward Douglass White Council 2473 and other councils in the Arlington community helped provide Thanksgiving meals for more than 3,000 disadvantaged neighbors. They collected donations of 20 pound turkeys. These turkeys were then prepared by the council and other volunteers as part of meals served on Thanksgiving Day.
In Mason City, local Knights of Columbus were among the sponsors of a traditional Thanksgiving meal at the Free Senior Thanksgiving Dinner at the Columbia Club on Sunday. More than 700 people attended the event. And at St. Luke Parish in the Diocese of Seattle, Thanksgiving Day Mass is followed by cinnamon rolls hosted by Knights of Columbus.
This is the season to find cans of food stacked on tables of Catholic Charities West Virginia in Parkersburg. The cans, which were donated by local Knights of Columbus and other volunteers, fed families not just on Thanksgiving, but throughout the year. The Knights also partnered with Catholic Charities to host Thanksgiving weekend coat drives, which have collected more than 300 coats during past events.
Msgr. Loerke Council 1922 in Clintonville will sponsor their 42nd Thanksgiving Day Dinner this year. There is no cost for the meal — and no one is turned away. The meal includes roast turkey, baked ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, two vegetables, coleslaw and homemade pies for dessert. The meals are even available to go!
The Bishop Patrick A. McGovern Assembly 1223 and Bishop Patrick A. McGovern Council 801 in Cheyenne host a “40 Cans for Thanksgiving” to the benefit the local St Joseph’s Food Pantry. They especially ask for Thanksgiving meal-related items such as stuffing and cranberry sauce.
For questions, or to share your Knights of Columbus stories, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published 11/21/2018, updated 11/2019