FORTVILLE — Hundreds of hours spent helping people in the community, thousands of meals provided to Hoosiers, Haitians and others in need, and support for education both locally and through an agency that helps children with emotional and behavioral issues.
And that only begins to tell the story of the Fortville Knights of Columbus, a Catholic Church-based men’s service organization that traces its roots to 19th century New England but is less than two years old locally.
“We’re still new, getting out in the community,” leader Grand Knight Mark Chatterson said, explaining that he believes a lot of people aren’t even aware there’s a local charter at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church. “There’s not a lot of marketing.”
But in the church, people know about the group. In the community, there were several members of other councils who had moved to Fortville, as well as parish men who had joined charters outside Fortville because there wasn’t one there.
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For example, St. John Neumann Council 10713 Knights of Columbus is affiliated with the parish of St. Michael Catholic Church in Greenfield.
In 2013, the Knights in Fortville decided it was time to organize locally.
“Most of us had been members elsewhere but wanted to get people here together,” Chatterson said.
The St. Thomas group has about 30 members. The group meets twice per month — on the first Thursday, usually involving only the officers, and on the third Thursday, usually involving the whole group. The meetings start at 7 p.m. and take place at St. Thomas.
Members plan volunteer or fundraising efforts, and they socialize, which Chatterson said is a major component.
“It’s definitely a brotherhood,” Chatterson said.
Bill Dierckman, 51, a parishioner of St. Thomas since 2009, joined the group in August 2014 for a couple of reasons.
“I wanted to have the camaraderie of the fellows,” he said.
He serves the church on the finance and maintenance committee but wanted to do more.
He helps with church events, such as the annual St. Thomas festival, a Mother’s Day breakfast and a May fish fry. He also gives of his talents as a computer technician, helping, for example, senior citizens having problems with their home computers.
He sees himself doing this indefinitely: “Till I pass on, maybe — hopefully 20 years.”
Mike Tinnel also joined last year, “just to help with the church and the church community.”
It was a draw so strong for him that it provided the impetus for formally becoming a Catholic last Easter. His wife is Catholic, and being a Catholic in good standing with the church is a prerequisite for joining the Knights of Columbus.
Tinnel said the group gives men a way to be involved.
In the local Knights’ relatively short time, Chatterson said the local charter has raised and given away about $7,000 and worked about 700 volunteer hours of service.
A May 30 fish fry was the group’s inaugural fish fry event, but it has many other recurring events, including a golf outing to benefit children’s education and assisting at the Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen in Greenfield, in addition to the Mother’s Day breakfast and the festival.
Chatterson said the Knights of Columbus has many efforts nationally and at the state level, which local charters can join. These include Kids Against Hunger, which provides bags of dry food that can be shipped locally or internationally to those facing hunger.
He is spearheading local support for Gibault Children’s Services, an agency in Terre Haute that, according to its website, serves “children with mild emotional disturbances, aggressive and oppositional behaviors, substance abuse issues” and other challenges.
Knights of Columbus also sells a variety of insurance products — life, long-term care and retirement — which harkens to one of the group’s founding missions: to help widows and orphans, and to prevent financial ruin resulting from the death of a breadwinner.
Brothers Karl Fentz and Fred Fentz said what they enjoy most about the group is helping others in a variety of ways.
Fred Fentz, or “Fritz” as he is known, said the Knights have volunteered to help with town events.
Karl Fentz said he likes helping seniors and those with disabilities with home repairs “so they don’t have to worry about it.”
He said he’s thankful for the Knights because the group nature of the work is beneficial to all.
“As one person, it’s difficult to make a difference. But if you can get five or six guys to work on a project, you can get a job done,” Karl Fentz said.
On a practical note, “when you’re there with a brother Knight, something you don’t how to do he’ll know how to do, and you can watch him. It’s a learning process.”
He said the Knights of Columbus locally works with Love INC, which functions as a clearinghouse for aid requests from many local churches. This helps ensure the group is providing assistance to those who really need it, he said.
And those who need help don’t have to be Catholic, Christian or of any faith at all.
“We help atheists and Catholics, whether you’re Jewish or Muslim — it’s all about love.”
For more details about the Fortville Knights of Columbus organization, visit kofc15712.org. For more about the Greenfield council, visit stmichaelsgrfld.org/knights-of-columbus.