Knights of Columbus free Christmas meal returns

Knights of Columbus free Christmas meal returnsBy LAURA QUEZADA

News Review Staff Writer

The pandemic created many changes to the Knights of Columbus Father Crowley Council 3199, but nothing has changed their commitment to community service to those in need. The COVID shutdowns ended the group’s primary fundraising event: Bingo. Without this income the Knights decided to sell their building on Ridgecrest Boulevard earlier this year. This is not as tragic as it sounds, “Most Knights of Columbus councils do not actually have buildings,” says Larry Riendeau, Trustee. “The organization itself has been moving away from individual buildings for a while because they want the counselors to focus on the charity work that they do, as opposed to having the expensive building. Rather than spending all that money on a building, put the money to work towards helping people.”

Restrictions cancelled the Annual Christmas Dinner in 2020, but it returns this December 25 at St. Ann Church Parish Hall, 446 West Church Avenue, from 12noon until 4pm. “It’s free and open to the public,” says Riendeu. “There are people who may be elderly or alone during Christmas, maybe a single mom can’t afford Christmas. The idea was to give them a place to come and fellowship with other people and have a good time. A nice sit down meal catered by the Knights and with chamber music supplied by local musicians.” He adds, “We have normally anywhere between 400 to 600 people that we serve.” About one third of the people they serve get their meals delivered to their home.

Toward this goal, the Knights are requesting donations which is how they have served these meals over the years. They request the traditional Christmas meal ingredients: frozen turkeys, boneless ham, stuffing mix, instant potatoes, green beans, jellied cranberry sauce, brown gravy mix, dinner rolls and desserts. He says that people always want dessert, “We usually get a quite a variety. A lot of cookies and different baked items, a lot of pies, and they’re all delicious.”

Donations can be dropped off at the St. Ann’s Parish Center after weekend masses or one can call Larry at (760) 608-3781 or Grand Knight Vince Sherrick (760) 382-4271. These gentlemen will work with you to make donation arrangements. For home delivery of the meal call Larry on Christmas Day between 11am and 3pm.

Volunteer Henry Lebsock prepares the turkey in a deep pit barbecue. This process takes a few days of loving preparations. “A day or two before they come in and prep all of the turkeys. They’ll put spices on them, wrap them in bags, put burlap and newspaper on them. That all gets moist, watered down.” Then they are ready for the pit. “They get covered up with coals they make from almond wood and let it cook overnight. They stay up all night Christmas Eve and take care of that. It comes out nice and soft and tender and just melts right off the bone.”

Riendeau offers a brief history, “The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic fraternity whose main purpose is charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism. They were founded in 1882 by Father McGivney. In those days, there weren’t a whole lot of social safety nets for people, especially the Catholic Irish. If the family breadwinner got hurt or died working, the family was left out in the cold quite literally often. McGivney saw a need for an organization where families can take care of each other. So if somebody’s family had something bad happened to them, the other members of the organization could come together and help them without too much burden on any one individual. From there, it continued to grow to the worldwide organization it is today.”

The Knights have been in Ridgecrest since the 40’s or 50’s. Although it is a Catholic fraternity, one does not need to be Catholic to benefit from their generosity. “We’re always looking for new members, if other Catholic men who would be interested in joining us and helping us do our work. We do need new young members. Many of our longtime members have gotten older, they can’t keep up with things like they used to.” Interested parties please contact Larry at (760) 608-3781

Laura Austin Photo: Knight member Mark and Grand Night Vince seek donations for their free Christmas Dinner which returns this December 25 at St. Ann Church Parish Hall, 446 West Church Avenue, from 12noon until 4pm.

Story First Published: 2021-12-17