The town of Ragley, La. has just more than 4,000 residents and is tucked 24 miles north of Lake Charles, the epicenter of Hurricane Laura’s destruction when it made landfall on Aug. 27 as a Category 4 storm. Downed trees and powerlines were scattered across the town’s main road and several buildings, including St. Pius X Catholic Church, suffered major damage.
“When you stand in line here, and you see people who are coming through who are hungry, they've lost their houses, they've lost their jobs, they've lost literally everything. And they're here, just with basic human needs,” said Father Jeffrey Starkovich, a priest at St. Pius X.
Knights from St. Jean Vianney Council 9247 in Baton Rouge, La. — 140 miles away from Ragley — saw the residents’ immense needs following the wake of devastation. They decided to travel to the area to help.
“We really have to step up and reach out to our brothers and sisters that are in need, no matter where it is,” said Rusty Miller, a member of Council 9247. “It’s critical and crucial that we do that.”
Miller, like other Knights who traveled to Ragley such as Louisiana State Deputy Vernon Ducote and Vince Whittington, has lived through several hurricanes and been on the “receiving end” of charity. Those who helped him in the aftermaths not only brought basic necessities or muscle to repair his livelihood, but, more importantly, they brought comfort. Bringing a similar comfort to others motivated him to serve nearly 500 meals to Ragley residents during a Sept. 6 event held at St. Pius X Catholic Church.
“God calls us all to give back and to help others in need and the Knights were founded by Father McGivney to help the wives the widows and all those that have had disasters,” Whittington said. “They have a need right now. So we need to help fill that void as much as we can.”
Knights are no strangers to helping people affected by disasters. Whether hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, floods, tornadoes or international disaster, Knights are often among the first to help with recovery and the last to leave. Last year, the Supreme Council gave more than $1.3 million to disaster relief, with an additional $3.5 million donated directly by local councils and assemblies. The Supreme Council also donated $150,000 to the Diocese of Lake Charles to help with disaster relief.
Knights from across the state of Louisiana and Texas have been assisting those in need. For instance, K of C field agents from the Dean Agency in Lafayette drove to Lake Charles to clear debris from several homes. Meanwhile, more than 18 Texas Knights from Houston, Galveston and Dickerson offered a helping hand by distributing supplies and removing trees from peoples’ yards. Other Knights are sending trailers and U-Hauls filled with basic necessities.
The work — distributing supplies, cooking meals and clearing debris— exemplifies the Order’s principle of Unity, according to Louisiana State Deputy Vernon Ducote.
“We are unified as Knights of Columbus around the world,” Ducote said. “We want to keep Father McGivney’s legacy going by showing our charity, our works to the community, our works to our brothers and to our priests, and to our churches.”
The Leave No Neighbor Behind initiative bring the Order’s principle of unity to the forefront. Created in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the new program encourages Knights to continue their charitable outreach in safe and effective ways by supporting their local parishes, food banks and blood drives during the ongoing pandemic.
“To Leave No Neighbor Behind for me means as being a Knight you want to continue to help people no matter who they are, whether brother Knight, whether individual, whether they're a little child, elderly, whatever,” Whittington said. “We're there to serve and to help them.”
According to Ducote, Knights are scheduled to clear debris, distribute supplies and cook meals over the next few weekends.
Want to help in the K of C disaster relief efforts?
Share your story of how your council is helping strengthen people’s faith and offering support during this time. Email email@example.com.
Originally published in a weekly edition of Knightline, a resource for K of C leaders and members. Access Knightline’s monthly archives.
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