Who and what are the Knights of Columbus?
There are 240 men in St. Therese Council 7406 at St. Therese Catholic Church in Mooresville, among them Ron Cortopassi, Grand Knight; Jim Kiger, Deputy Grand Knight; Gary Tadvick, Grand Knight; and Steve Wise, Grand Knight and financial secretary.
Cortopassi, 59, and a Knight for seven years, described the Knights as "men who put our faith in action."
"Many are looking for a social connection with other men," said Cortopassi, wholives in the Shavenders Bluff neighborhood in Mooresville.
"Following our principles, charity is not only giving of money, but of time and talent. When somebody needs help, we give help."
The Knights' principles are charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism.
"Our efforts are performed out of love for our fellow man for the betterment of the societies we live in, not for self recognition or personal gain," said Tadvick, 49, a Knight for 15 years. "We are men who live our faith openly in the community through acts of kindness."
Wise, 59, who lives in the Whippoorwill Woods neighborhood of Moores, has been a Knight for 24 years. He joined "because it was a men's group.
"I didn't like the women meeting and the men doing nothing. I like to serve," said Wise. "I love doing the meals."
Kiger, 59, became a Knight five years ago after attending a funeral in New Jersey for his Scoutmaster and mentor.
"This was the guy who kept me from going the wrong way. Honestly, without him, I probably would have ended up in jail.
"I had no clue until the funeral that he was a fourth degree knight," said Kiger. "If it was good enough for Morris, it's good enough for me."
Kiger returned to Mooresville and joined St. Therese Council Knights of Columbus 7406 and told Tadvick to "put me to work."
"We were cooking chickens," said Tadvick, who lives in Mooresville.
Kiger jumped in, saying, "I don't need anyone to show me how to cook chickens."
He is now a valuable member - he's not only the pancake guy, but also security and parking organizer.
"Eight hundred pancakes doesn't seem like work," said Kiger, who lives on Academy Street. "To me the most important thing is the brotherhood. We are that close. If you need help, I know I can call on any of these men."
Pancake breakfasts, spaghetti dinners, Friday Fish Fries, St. Patrick's Day dinners, ice cream socials are ways the Knights raise money for those in need.
Operation LAMB (Least among My Brothers) is another way they raise funds all year by selling Tootsie Rolls through the support of Wal-Mart, Harris Teeter and Lowes.
The Knights of Columbus extend their help to everyone, not just Catholics.
The council works with other Christian denominations helping the needy at the Mooresville Mission, reaching out to veterans through Wounded Warriors, Welcome Home Veterans.
The council donates money to the Brad Baity Scholarship Fund, the Mooresville fireman who died in a Charleston fire.
The requirement to become a member of the Knights of Columbus is you must be a Catholic man age 18 or older who lives up to the Commandments of God and the precepts of the Church.
"I get asked if you have to be Italian to join," said Cortopassi.
You don't. The council wants to extend an invitation to the Latino and all communities to join them.
What the Knights of Columbus do is a result of the Rev. Michael J. McGivney who, in 1892, saw a need. In New Haven, Conn., McGivney gathered a group of men who became the Knights of Columbus to help give financial aid and to help the sick, needy and disabled.
"That small group, not only provided for women and orphans, but it provided a support structure for families, " said Cortopassi
In the 1960s, that's exactly what the Knights of Columbus did for my uncle. My uncle, the father of five young children, had kidneys that failed. Medicare didn't cover the cost of dialysis until 1973. The Knights of Columbus stepped in and helped pay for my uncle's dialysis.
Cortopassi said his favorite part of being a Knight is "putting smiles on faces."
Kiger ribbed him. "That was so sappy. It was good, though."