Diocese of Lake Charles
Members of the Knights of Columbus Father Roach Council 3217 in Dickinson, Texas are grateful for being spared the destructive wrath of Hurricane Laura that made landfall in Louisiana in late August.
“When Hurricane Laura missed us and headed to Lake Charles, we breathed a sigh of relief,” said Michael Dunn, financial secretary for the KC Council at the Shrine of the True Cross Catholic Church. At the same time, the Knights knew they couldn’t just turn away from their neighbors to the East.
It was almost three years ago to the day that Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc in 2017 after making landfall along the Texas coast near Port Aransas on August 25. Dickinson was among the hardest hit areas impacted by catastrophic flooding.
“We knew we needed to do something, especially having been on the receiving end of a lot of help from people in Louisiana,” Dunn said.
The Knights not only reached out in the aftermath of Laura, but again when Hurricane Delta slammed the devastated region just six weeks later in October.
Dunn credits Anthony and Aimee Clements and their five children — who were honored as the Texas State Council Family of the Year after Hurricane Harvey — for spearheading the Hurricane Laura and Delta Recovery Effort.
“This project literally started at our officers’ meeting on September 3 when Tony mentioned that his family decided they wanted to do something to help victims of Hurricane Laura,” explained Dunn. “He said if anyone wanted to join them, they were driving over on September 6.”
That simple invitation was all it took. The project would eventually add up to nearly 50 volunteers ranging in ages 9 to 72 for a total of 2,000 hours of community service spanning seven trips. Knights of Columbus representatives in the Diocese of Lake Charles directed members of Council 3217 to people and areas most in need of assistance.
“That first weekend, about 17 people drove over on Sunday and another 15 went on Labor Day, and things evolved from there,” Dunn said. Additional trips included September 13, 14, 20, October 5 and 18.
Volunteers for each trip met at 5 a.m. at the Shrine of the True Cross and caravanned over with food, water, chainsaws, ladders, tools, generators, two to three trailers carrying front-end loading tractors, garden-style tractors, and a backhoe.
Dunn said Auxiliary Bishop George Sheltz granted the Knights permission to borrow some equipment from the Catholic Cemetery noting the people from Louisiana were so helpful to the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston after Harvey, he wanted to do whatever was necessary to aid in the relief efforts.
The Shrine of the True Cross pastor showed his support by giving a blessing to the volunteers before each trip.
“Father (Larry) Wilson met us in the parking lot before we left each time and would be waiting for us when we returned around 6-7 in the evening,” said Dunn.
Every seven-hour round trip involved clearing yards of downed trees or, in some cases, cutting down trees that were severely damaged.
“We cut up all the lumber and moved it out near the street to be picked up. We did the heavy lifting necessary to get the yards cleaned up,” Dunn said. “We worked in the yards of five homes throughout the project. Most of the homes belonged to senior citizens who were so appreciative of everything we were doing. Even though we brought our own food for lunch, a couple of the residents ordered pizzas for us.”
After seven trips of manpower and more than two months of collecting donations from members, parishioners and the community, a group of Knights and their families drove to Lake Charles one last time on November 15 to present a check for $12,500. These funds are in addition to the nearly $5,600 the Council had paid for project expenses, bringing the total donated for hurricane relief to just over $18,000.
Charles Marcantel, Grand Knight for KC Council 1207 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, said Dunn called to let him know a group of Knights and their families wanted to drive over to bring the donation along with supplies, and they also wanted to attend Mass.
“I invited him to the 9:30 a.m. Mass since that is the one usually celebrated by Bishop Provost. They were very excited to hear that,” said Marcantel, who recognized the hurricane relief project as a silver lining amid the darkest clouds.
“Council 3217 has proven what Christian love is all about,” Marcantel said. “I told our Knights not to forget this. There are going to be people in need somewhere else in the future that we will need to stand up and go help.”