One of the main roles of the Knights of Columbus – the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization – is assisting those in need.
The St. Nicholas of Myra K of C Council in Hays started a volunteer group called Knights of Service last fall and has reached out to parishioners in need of handyman jobs around their homes. Their target group is military veterans, the elderly, the disabled or someone temporarily laid up.
“For us at St. Nick’s, we thought there was a void that needed to be filled,” said Justin Baalmann, who just finished a two-year term as Grand Knight for the St. Nicholas council. “We wanted to start a group within our council that could answer calls for anybody in need in the parish.”
Bill Heimann was part of a small group of volunteers who trimmed trees on a warm evening earlier this summer for parishioner and fellow K of C member Rex O’Brien, who has been unable to do outdoor work around his home in Hays while battling cancer.
Heimann, along with Jim Ruda and brothers Mark and John Lang, trimmed two silver maple trees in the front yard and another one in the back yard. They then piled the limbs on a trailer and hauled them off.
“I’ve trimmed trees before, plenty of them,” Heimann said above the din of the electric saws. “I’ve got some equipment for it.”
Heimann got the idea for starting a handyman service with the local Knights from his sister and brother-in-law, who live in Omaha, where a similar service was being provided. Heimann presented the proposal to the St. Nicholas council last fall, and there are now 13 volunteers to help out, performing jobs that do not require a permit or license.
The group has done just a handful of jobs so far, but Heimann is hopeful that will change. He said they are willing to tackle any number of jobs, including gutter cleaning and other ladder work, basic door or window repair, light fixture detail, etc.
“We figured that we would be really busy,” he said. “That hasn’t happened – yet. But it’s going to develop.”
O’Brien and his wife, Diane, were grateful for a helping hand -- in this case, eight hands -- plus assorted saws, trimmers and other equipment to get the job done.
“Those trees just got out of control,” said Rex O’Brien while sitting in a lawn chair in the shade to watch his fellow Knights at work. “It’s really neat that they do this. I usually trim these trees in the spring, but I wasn’t able to this year. Sitting here watching this gives you a really warm feeling that there are a lot of good-hearted people in our church, in our community.”
Baalmann said the K of C group was more than happy to provide such a service.
“They were in a time of need, going through cancer treatments,” he said.
Knights of Service was designed to limit its service to St. Nicholas parishioners. The hope is that other parishes follow suit. The group is reluctant to extend beyond its parish because it does not want more requests than it can handle and does not want to turn down a request.
“There is definitely a need,” Baalmann said.
Heimann said volunteers benefit from the service as well.
“Just glad to help some people out,” he said. “It’s a sense of satisfaction, definitely. All the group members feel the same way.”