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Knights give more than $200,000 to Wildfire Victims

12/4/2018

by Andrew Fowler
(CNS photo/Terray Sylvester, Reuters)

(CNS photo/Terray Sylvester, Reuters)

In California, ash is all that remains of 69 Knights’ homes.

The state’s most destructive and deadliest wildfire, now fully contained, devastated over 150,000 acres, causing at least 85 deaths and destroyed approximately 19,000 residences and commercial buildings. Some Knights barely escaped the raging blaze as all their possessions became engulfed in flames.

In response, Knights from local, state and nationwide councils are sending assistance, collectively giving more than $200,000 to the victims. Knights from San Francisco came in with $9,000 in gift cards as well as backpacks filled with supplies. Aurora Council 53 in Seymour, Conn., hosted several movie nights to raise money for the California wildfire victims. Meanwhile, some Knights have individually written checks up to $5,000.

The Supreme Council is providing more than $132,500 for recovery efforts.

While donations like these bring hope, the trauma is ever-present in what Jim Collins, grand knight of St. Thomas More Church Council 7773 in Paradise, Calif., the epicenter of the destruction, describes as a wasteland.

“In my own neighborhood, there are six homes out of about 60 left,” said Collins. “Other areas it is zero, where you had one hundred homes. It is zero.”

For other victims, the question yet unanswered is whether to rebuild in the same community or not.

“A lot of people are walking around kind of in a zombie-state, just overwhelmed by having to rebuild and trying to figure out what their next move is,” said Collins.

The support from Knights at every level throughout the country has brought their brother Knights hope.

“People break down in tears because they figured there was no hope,” said Collins. “I think it shows what the Knights are really, truly all about.”

Among the buildings destroyed in the fire was St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Paradise. With no parish building of their own, parishioners now attend Our Divine Savior Catholic Church in the nearby town of Chico. There, on Dec. 2, a Mass was said for wildfire victims, attended by 250 people.

Following the Mass, California State Deputy Joe Salaiz, distributed disaster relief funds to the victims as well as mentioned that the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council in New Haven, Conn. gave $132,500 to disaster relief efforts, with $120,000 allocated to charity and an additional $12,500 for clean-up supplies and gift cards.

“This is a perfect example of Father McGivney’s mission, to be there for the families and to take care of our families,” said Salaiz.

The Knights of Columbus, founded by the Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney in 1882, established an insurance program for the protection of Catholic families during a period when Catholic men often held dangerous occupations. The tradition of Knights securing a life insurance policy continues today, as it not only protects their families in dire circumstances, but also funds the Order’s charitable outreach.

“Across the board, whether they are Knights or whether they are not Knights there is this incredible regard, a very positive, high regard for the Knights of Columbus and how we take care of our brothers,” said Collins.

To help out the victims, please donate here.

Andrew Fowler, Andrew.fowler@kofc.org