Knights of Columbus remove trees, give out food after Iowa storm

Storm damage is seen in Dubuque, Iowa, Aug. 14, 2020. A derecho windstorm barreled through the area Aug. 10 leaving about 500,000 Iowans without electricity during that time. (CNS photo/Megan Stammeyer, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque via The Witness)

By Andrew Fowler Catholic News Service

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Since the derecho storm devastated parts of Iowa, Aug. 10, local members of the Knights of Columbus have been helping out in any way possible, from moving trees to delivering food.

Paul Lee, the Knights’ Iowa State Deputy, made a delivery of food and water with his family to St. Ludmila Catholic Church when they noticed a family gathered before a fallen tree in their front yard that had split the house’s top floor in half. A bulldozer later came in to finish, as Lee described, “what Mother Nature already started.”

The severe storm’s winds topping 100 mph caused hundreds of millions of dollars-worth of damage and destroyed more than 10 million acres of corn. The storm created an urgent need for assistance and churches like St. Ludmila’s have become distribution hubs for people in need.

When Lee saw the tree damage, he stopped the car and offered his help to the family near the church. The owner of the home, also a member of the Knights of Columbus, thanked Lee and said the cleanup that could be done was already completed by other Knights.

Iowa Knights have been helping out despite suffering damage to their own homes. Phil Buchs, for example, a Knight from St. Jude Council 1243 in Perry, continued driving supplies across the state even though his garage and car were destroyed by downed trees.

As one Knight told Lee, “If it’s not me, then who?”

“That is just the testament of Knights that even when we’re impacted personally, there’s still that notion of giving in service to others,” Lee said. “I know my fellow brother Knights are out there putting their faith in action, doing the work they pledged to do when we became members and brothers of this order.”

Knights are no strangers to helping people affected by disasters. After natural disasters, they are often among the first to help with recovery and the last to leave. Last year, the Supreme Council gave more than $1.3 million to disaster relief, with an additional $3.5 million donated directly by local councils and assemblies.

In Iowa, the Knights provided food for local communities and prepared and distributed more than 3,000 meals for first responders and to local homeless shelters.

They are also helping in spiritual ways, including holding candles to illuminate Masses at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Cedar Rapids, which was without power.

Members have been working alongside other Catholic charitable organizations, such as Catholic Charities, during the recovery. Lee expects these efforts to take time because most communication lines are down around the state, including Cedar Rapids.

“There were chunks of town I could not even tell someone what happened because it wasn’t just cell service, it was also data, it was also cable, it was broadcast TV, it was radio towers that were knocked down,” he said.

This presents problems for people and businesses who don’t have cash, relying solely on credit and debit cards, due to the recent federal coin shortage. With the power out, Iowans are more reliant on cash and gift cards, Lee says. But the Knights are ready to help with that too.

“When you look at the work that we do, it speaks even more volumes of who we are as men of faith,” Lee said. “It makes it very easy to wake up in the morning and be ready to do the will of God and put in the blood, sweat and tears and long nights because I know that I get work with thousands of brother Knights who also have the same common passion and vision and at a drop of a hat will do anything that they can.”


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