In the wake of a hurricane-like storm that devastated the Cedar Rapids area, Iowa State Deputy Paul Lee, and his family had just made a delivery of food and water to St. Ludmila Catholic Church when they noticed a family gathered before a fallen tree in their front yard that had split the house’s top floor in half. A bulldozer later came in to finish, as Lee described, “what Mother Nature already started.”
The severe storm had winds topping 100 mph causing hundreds of millions of dollars-worth of damage and destroying more than 10 million acres of corn. It’s created an urgent need for assistance, and churches like St. Ludmila’s have become distribution hubs for people in need.
Lee, stopped the car and offered his help to the family near the church. The owner of the home — a Knight — thanked Lee and said the clean-up that could be done was already completed by other members of the Knights.
Knights in Iowa have been helping those severely impacted by the storm, not only bringing their muscle for cleanup but also delivering basic necessities to those in need. This is despite suffering damage to their own homes, like Phil Buchs — a Knight from St. Jude Council 1243 in Perry — who continued driving supplies across the state even though his garage and car were destroyed by downed trees.
But as one Knight told Lee, “If it’s not me, then who?”
“That is just the testament of Knights that even when we’re impacted personally, there’s still that notion of giving in service to others,” Lee said. “I know my fellow brother Knights are out there putting their faith in action, doing the work they pledged to do when we became members and brothers of this Order.”
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.
Knights in Iowa, including K of C field agents, have helped those in need after the recent storm by providing food to anyone in need, regardless of religious background. Knights from Pope John XXIII Council 5677 in Cedar Rapids made sure to cook foods that meet the dietary needs for the Muslim and Jewish communities. Meanwhile, St. Columbkille-David J. Ochs Council 15813 in Dubuque prepared and distributed more than 3,000 meals for first responders and to local homeless shelters.
Knights are also helping in spiritual ways, including holding candles to illuminate Masses at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Cedar Rapids, which was without power.
Members have been working alongside other Catholic charitable groups, such as Catholic Charities, during the recovery. Lee expects the recovery to be long because most communications lines are down around the state, including Cedar Rapids.
“There were chunks of town I could not even tell someone what happened because it wasn’t just cell service, it was also data, it was also cable, it was broadcast TV, it was radio towers that were knocked down,” Lee said.
This presents problems for people and businesses who don’t have cash, relying solely on credit and debit cards, due to the recent federal coin shortage. With the power out, Iowans are more reliant on cash and gift cards, Lee says. But the Knights are ready to help.
“When you look at the work that we do, it speaks even more volumes of who we are as men of faith,” Lee said. “It makes it very easy to wake up in the morning and be ready to do the will of God and put in the blood, sweat and tears and long nights because I know that I get work with thousands of brother Knights who also have the same common passion and vision and at a drop of a hat will do anything that they can.”
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