Local Knights of Columbus council honored with international award
(Photo courtesy of Chris Grenier)
By Terence Hegarty
SPRINGFIELD – A local effort that feeds thousands of needy each Thanksgiving caught the attention of the head of the Knights of Columbus last year and led to some very prestigious recognition last month.
The Knights of Columbus (K of C) is an international, Catholic, fraternal organiztion headquartered in New Haven, Conn. The organization charters thousands of local councils in the United States and beyond.
The Fairview Council (4044), in Chicopee, received the 2013 International Community Activity Award at the 131st Supreme Council Conference in San Antonio, Texas. The convention was held from Aug. 5 through 8.
“To be recognized on an international level was a great honor for our council,” said J.J. Donald Turgeon, a Chicopee resident and immediate past grand knight of the council. The grand knight heads a council for a one year term. Turgeon received the award on behalf of the council because he was the grand knight last year when the meal program came to the attention of Carl Anderson, the head of the more than 1.5 million-member organization.
Anderson, known as the supreme knight, made a surprise visit to the Chicopee council in November, 2012 and witnessed the mammoth effort that has been going on at the council for the last 22 years.
(Iobserve file photo)
The council prepares and serves a community Thanksgiving dinner, providing meals to more than 3,500 needy people. On Thanksgiving Day 2012, the council hosted a sit-down banquet for 1,000 people at their Memorial Drive banquet facility. Additionally, more than 2,000 meals were delivered to area facilities such as Kate’s Kitchen in Holyoke, the Boys and Girls Club in Chicopee, or were delivered directly to the homes of the elderly and disabled.
Two hundred members contributed more than 1,000 hours of volunteer service to facilitate the project.
“Last Thanksgiving Day, we were honored with an unannounced visit from our Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson, who was able to see for himself what our council accomplishes,” said Turgeon.
“Subsequently, I was notified…that our council won first place for the International Community Service Award 2012-2013,” he said. Following the convention, in a statement to the members of the council, Turgeon said, “It was your hard work and volunteerism that won this award for Council 4044.”
In an email interview with iobserve, Turgeon gave credit to others for beginning the dinner and for their volunteer efforts. He said fellow member Ron Belair, who serves as chair of the dinner committee continues the program with his co-chair Ed Czepial. “Over the years, Ron guided this project to what it is today,” Turgeon said.
He also enjoys the work it takes to carry out the community service of the council. “I get a great deal of satisfaction (from) helping those in need. To see their faces and their appreciation is all the thanks I/we need to continue year after year.”
He said that there are needs other than the need for food. “People come to our council not only because they are needy, but also because they are either alone or lonely. It’s a time for them to get together and share a delicious meal on a special day.”