By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

George Fadgen, 71, who is chairman of the Philadelphia Chapter, Knights of Columbus Charity Drive, didn’t really discover the K of C until a little more than a decade ago. Fagden knew about the organization because his father was a Knight, and he remembers attending K of C picnics with his father.

But as an adult he had other things on his plate. A Philadelphia police officer, now retired, his shift work made joining an organization with fixed meetings problematic, although he was a member of the League of the Sacred Heart, the Catholic organization for police officers. And of course, there was his family, including his wife, Dolores, to whom he has been married for 46 years, and his now-grown children, George and Michele.

Originally from the former Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in West Philadelphia, like many city employees, Fadgen relocated to the Far Northeast, St. Martha Parish, in his case.

“It was about 11 years ago when the Knights were starting a new council in St. Martha’s and I decided to join,” he said. “I didn’t have time before, but now this was a way of honoring my father.”

He joined the new Council, Mary Queen of Angels 12384, which still meets at St. Martha’s rectory.

A pleasant surprise for Fadgen was discovering how many of Philadelphia’s men in blue were Knights. But whatever their profession or trade, “it was a group of Catholic gentlemen,” he added.

Being a Knight means “being closer to God, closer to the Church and closer to the parish and associating with men with the same desires,” he said.

Being a member of a Knights of Columbus Council is like being in a single platoon or company in a much larger army. As a matter of fact, with 1.7 million members, the K of C is larger than the U.S. Army. Inspanidual councils typically have a hundred or several hundred members; the council is part of a district of several councils and reports to the State Council which in turn reports to the Supreme Council in New Haven, Conn.

There are also side groups, for example the Fourth Degree, in which members can participate, if they wish. Also, councils may join together in a chapter, which is really an umbrella group that enables the councils to participate in activities too large for them to accomplish alone.

When Fadgen joined Mary Queen of Angels Council, he quickly became active in the St. John Neumann Fourth Degree Assembly, and he also became a delegate for his council to the Philadelphia Chapter.

At this time he is chairman of the chapter’s annual Charity Drive, which raises money, mostly from its members, to assist a variety of outreach efforts.

Fadgen cites three particular areas of need: providing assistance to brother Knights in financial distress, one of the founding motives for the Knights; an annual children’s outing, an almost century-old tradition where needy children are treated to a day at an amusement park; and offering aid to St. John’s Hospice, one of Philadelphia’s best known feeding centers for the homeless or needy.

“People are generous,” Fadgen said. He’s right, but as Christ Himself told us, “The poor you will always have with you.” The need just keeps growing greater and greater.

Donations can be sent to Philadelphia Chapter K of C, Charity Drive, 11838 Basile Drive, Philadelphia, PA 19154.

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.