Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 26, 2004
Casavant tackles challenges
State deputy says ban on casinos will mean 'adjustment'
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Mickey Casavant describes his first year as state deputy of the Knights of Columbus of Alberta and Northwest Territories as challenging and exciting.
One of the biggest challenges still facing him is to get the members of the organization to adapt to the fact casinos are no longer the organization's favourite fundraising method.
"For some councils it'll be a big adjustment because they were used to the big money we can raise through casinos," he said. "But I feel we are very much on track and I think we are getting there."
Councils have two years to adapt to the change. Those that have a licence can work casinos until 2006, when the practice will come to a stop and will be replaced by more family-oriented fundraising activities.
For Casavant, who was elected to replace Leo Klein as state deputy at last year's convention, this is a big accomplishment. Keeping the Knights focused on maintaining healthy families through service activities, fundraising included, was his main goal for the year.
Dozens of invitations
And there are many other smaller-scale challenges to being the leader of 15,000 knights. One of these is to respond to dozens of requests for his presence at functions and activities at all levels of the organizations in Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
"I have to set priorities," he said, noting he often asks other members of the state board to attend functions he cannot.
Another challenge is to stay on top of all the paperwork his office generates - mostly large volumes of mail, reports and agendas for meetings.
"I get letters every day," he noted. How does he manage? "I start early in the morning," he promptly replied. Casavant has made his job easier by doing most of his correspondence in the form of e-mails and faxes.
Another challenge is to ensure the membership is kept informed of the organization's activities and expectations so that they remain motivated to do their projects with enthusiasm, he said. The state board has an office and some support staff in Red Deer but Casavant does most of his work from his basement office at his St. Albert home. He keeps in touch with the staff mostly by phone.
Casavant is retired and figures he spends an average of five to six hours a day working for the knights. He says he couldn't get by without the help of his wife Astrid, a retired private secretary to the last four Alberta lieutenant governors. She is essential to his success. "Her help is invaluable."
Casavant, a retired civil servant with the Alberta government, has been a knight for over 30 years.
According to wife Astrid, he is away for meetings more frequently as state deputy than he was in the past. "And certainly when these meetings occur during the day and also in the evenings on successive days it gets a little frustrating on my part," she admitted.
"The frustration is that our 'life' outside of the Knights has been put on hold temporarily. We miss dinner parties, gatherings and even activities within our own council and our parish."
Fortunately the Casavants are able to maintain their Sunday dinners with their children and granddaughter.
When Casavant is invited to a function, Astrid is normally included in the invitation. "We have the opportunity to meet the membership from throughout the province and have met some of the kindest and compassionate couples," she said. "We have friends from throughout the jurisdiction who have the same interests and family values that we do. The Knights have very good community programs and it is great to be invited to take part in them in their communities."
Families working together
Despite the work, Casavant says being state deputy is exciting, especially because he is in a good position to witness the strength and unity generated by so many families working together for a common cause.
What else is exciting? "The feeling of accomplishment when so much charity is done for individuals within the councils, parishes and the community," he said. "The enthusiasm generated through the 500-600 new members joining the order and contributing to a common cause with new and fresh ideas."
Also exciting for Casavant is the "enthusiasm generated by our youth through the Squires, Squirettes, baseball free throws, youth rallies and the many projects the youth are involved in."
Casavant's recruitment goal for his first year was 546 members and he says that quota will be met by the end of June. He also plans to have eight new councils by early fall, including councils in Provost and Slave Lake, both of which are already operational.
Casavant is expecting to be re-elected for another one-year term at the Knights' April 23-25 convention, as no other candidates are seeking his office.
"I'm very excited about the future," he said. "I think we are solidifying ourselves as an organization with strong principles."