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 | By Joey Reistroffer

KofC's annual convention is coming, service remains the priority

The Knights of Columbus are converging on Spartanburg April 5-7 for their 103rd state convention. This year, they will gather at the Marriott downtown to conduct a little business, have a lot of fun and brainstorm about what each council is doing across the Diocese of Charleston.

Several councils came forward this year when Catholic Radio was having a difficult time raising funds to upgrade its Emergency Broadcast System.

“Little stations like ours (in Spartanburg) are all required to do this,” according to Grand Knight Mike Leonard. “They needed $4,550, and a private donor stepped up — a Knight. The fines would have been $7,000.”

Other Catholic stations across South Carolina confronted a similar crisis, and the Knights also came to their rescue.

“The councils in Simpsonville and Florence: they all stepped up and took care of it,” Leonard said.

That action allowed Catholic Radio in South Carolina to continue broadcasting without a hitch.

“The Knights do a good job of raising money. They support all kinds of charities,” said Gary Towery, president of Mediatrix SC. The nonprofit operates two FM translators and two AM stations in the diocese. “The Knights have been very helpful over the years, and we continue to rely on their support.”

Towery is right. The Knights of Columbus do so much for the Church and their communities.

One example is the Columbus Hope Foundation, a nonprofit operated by Knights that raises funds to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  

“We provide them with the needs to live as independently as they can,” Leonard said. “We try to help fill in some of the gaps.”

One of their fundraising efforts for Columbus Hope is the sale of Tootsie Rolls, he explained, adding that they may look for a different product to raise funds. That could be one of the brainstorming sessions at the Spartanburg convention.

Coats for Kids is another project the Knights are passionate about sponsoring.

“This past year, we had 150 coats, from toddlers to teens,” Leonard said of his council. “Once we got the coats in hand, we reached out to the local authorities.” The Knights did not want any child shivering through the winter.

“I know one girl started crying.” Leonard said she told him it was the first time she'd ever had a new coat; she'd always had hand-me-downs.

Another project is the SFC Charles A. Judge Memorial Stand Down, which helps struggling veterans. “We do a lot of volunteer work with the city with that,” Leonard stated. “It’s a one-stop shop for the resources they need," and he said they have a group of veterans who are active in this movement.

The Knights are busy on so many fronts. They do much more than pancake breakfasts, Lenten fish fries and St. Patrick festivities.

“The Knights of Columbus is a fraternal organization rooted in charity and faith formation. Our programs encourage men to become better fathers, better husbands and better Catholics. If you are prepared to offer your family the best version of yourself, become a Knight of Columbus.”

“In the past, we have helped Habitat for Humanity. We partner mostly with other agencies,” Leonard added. “A lot of people think that we just support Catholics, but we’re here to support our entire community.”

Bill Weiss, a district deputy, said the Knights have 64 councils spread across 18 districts in South Carolina.

“We are looking at probably 300 registered delegates at the convention,” Weiss said. They will be voting on state offices and supreme delegates and considering several resolutions.

“Each council has their own groups. They all do good work,” Weiss explained. The convention is a time when councils from across the state can get together for fellowship. “We have a little business to conduct, some awards, and then just have a good time.”

One business item is the Fourth Degree Exemplification Ceremony.

“On Saturday afternoon, Third-Degree Knights are raised to the Fourth Degree,” said David Hood, public relations chairman for the state Knights of Columbus. This year, 40 candidates will receive that honor, he added.

Fourth-Degree Knights participate in color and honor guards and organize programs that promote Catholic citizenship. They foster the spirit of patriotism.

“The Fourth Degree is very much involved with the military,” Hood said, and his goal is to bring more men into the KofC.

The convention should help. It starts with Mass at 5:00 p.m., followed by Casino Night to loosen things up a bit. The focus of the convention ramps up on Saturday, starting again with Mass first, followed by meetings.

“We’ll go through resolutions and what we hope to accomplish during the year,” Hood said. His goal is to watch the Knights grow across the state. “I’d like to see every Catholic gentleman in the state sign up. I believe in service to the Church.”

Hood said he is reaching out to these men through Facebook and Instagram. “We’re trying everything we can,” he said, and he sees a solid response from the Hispanic community with the Caballeros de Colón.

“That is our growth right now,” he said.

Leonard, meanwhile, said he wants input from younger Catholics, and he is having some success. “I’ve gotten younger folks involved, and they are sharing ideas.”

On Saturday night, however, the Knights are going to rocket back 100 years with a Roaring 1920s party, Hood said. “I’ve got a zoot suit, and my wife is dressing as a flapper,” he grinned.

Yes, the Knights are to Spartanburg for a little old-fashioned fun, and then they plan to look to the future where service to Church and community remains their priority and passion.

Joseph Reistroffer is a long-time writer who teaches religious education classes at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Spartanburg. Email him at