Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 15, 2000
Top council 'spreads the fun'
Fr. Bonner Council ensures its members get involved
By GLEN ARGAN
As head of the top Knights of Columbus council in Alberta and the Northwest Territories, Ken Schwartz must know something.
"Our success formula is getting lots of people involved so there's no large burden on just one or two," says Schwartz, the 39-year-old grand knight of Father Bonner Council 7599. "In general, the whole council is very active."
"The key is to spread the fun. And that's what it becomes - instead of work, it becomes fun," he says.
At Father Bonner Council, the "fun" is symbolized by the large collection of plaques adorning a hallway in St. Thomas More Church in the rapidly-growing southwest area of Edmonton.
Take one of the council's smaller projects - the trucking of large donated household items, such as freezers and couches, to people in need.
Schwartz is involved in that project along with other knights who own trucks. Instead of drudgery for a small number of people, it becomes an outing.
"I phone the volunteers," he says. "We make a night of it and have a good time."
Or, take the council's largest project - a five-kilometre walk, run or roll to raise money for spinal cord research. It raised $6,000 in 1996, the first year, and $30,000 last year as well as involving more than 300 participants.
Thirty to 40 council members help in organizing the run. The project has become so large that now other Edmonton councils are becoming involved.
With the Running Room, the council hopes to make the run a national event. It is currently exploring the idea of expanding it to Winnipeg, Ottawa and Calgary.
"One problem with the Knights of Columbus is people have heard of it but they don't know what it is," says Schwartz. Making the walk-run-roll for spinal cord research a Canada-wide K of C event would identify the order in the public mind with one particular event.
But the list of activities run by the council - which this month celebrates its 20th anniversary - only begins with those two projects. For many years it has hosted a seniors Christmas party. It includes songs by the Columbian Choirs and "a really big spread."
Popular demand for the party has grown so large that the council had to draw the line at 250 seniors.
Last year, it hosted the city's first pro-life Mass that included displays by 12 pro-life groups. Members help out serving meals to transients at the Marian Centre. They also deliver hampers to the needy at both Thanksgiving and, with other Edmonton knights, Christmas. They helped parish-sponsored refugees from Kosovo adapt to Canadian life.
There is a monthly Holy Hour. There's a family potluck supper in the fall as well as family bowling nights, swimming parties and skating parties. And then there's a monthly pancake breakfast for St. Thomas More Parish put on by the Knights.
The council sponsors a Squires Circle (teenage boys) that is ranked among the top 25 in the 1,000 circles in the order.
A Mother's Day brunch drew 250 people last year. "That one is a lot of work because we overdo it on the food. It's really a feast."
Several years ago, Father Bonner Council brought back the Knights' Keep Christ in Christmas campaign with one billboard. The project mushroomed and it is now run by the Edmonton Chapter that includes councils from across the city.
Last year, the council helped start Holy Trinity Council to serve St. Agnes, St. Anthony and Immaculate Heart parishes.
Father Bonner Council also shares in the burden of hosting city and province-wide events. It won an award for its hosting of the 1997 Edmonton Padre Night and this winter hosted the province-wide Knights of Columbus curling bonspiel.
And then there is the job of selling tickets in shopping malls to raise money for the provincial K of C charities appeal. For nine consecutive years, Father Bonner Council has been the top-selling council in Alberta. This year, the council sold $17,000 of tickets out of $200,000 sold across the province.
"I think people were getting sick of us always setting the record," says Schwartz. "It's obvious that there are some councils now that are trying to beat us."
These activities - and more - help explain why Father Bonner Council last year was chosen as the top K of C council in Alberta.
The grand knight says the council works at recruiting new members and at getting those new members involved right away. That way, they get to meet other knights and prepare for greater involvement in future years.
"When you get a new person involved, you don't drop responsibility on him; you drop shared responsibility on him."
Many of those new members are in their 30s and 40s. But there is also a healthy contingent of active members who are retired. Some of those are the most dedicated raffle ticket sellers.
On average, 35 to 50 of the 160 knights in the council attend monthly meetings, says Schwartz. "We also have a core of knights who don't come to meetings often, but we'd be sunk without them."
The key, of course, is shared involvement. No knight should have to carry a burden that's too heavy, he says.
When the director of the raffle ticket project wanted to step down, Schwartz found him six helpers, each of whom took responsibility for organizing one week at a shopping mall. Now the director is happy and other knights are learning the ropes of the job.
"That's the key to any of this - making sure there's not one or two involved, but more like 10 or 20 involved."