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'Knighthood in organized merciful action'

Known for their beef-on-a-bun fundraisers, the Thorold Knights of Columbus have been helping Thorold and Niagara since 1921

If you've always wondered what the Knights of Columbus do, it’s fairly simple.

Simply put, “We raise money and we give it away,” Grand Knight Tony Scalzi told

“One of our primary mandates is to help the parish,” including anyone who is struggling. To that end, the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank operates out of Holy Rosary Hall, which has been the Knights’ headquarters for decades.

“If a member passes away,” explained Scalzi, “we help their spouse and family.”

But the Knights' generosity extends much farther into the community.

The Thorold volunteer club has won numerous awards for its community involvement, and just some of the 189 charities helped by the Thorold Knights since 1979 include: Thorold Amateur Athletics, Disaster Relief Fund, YMCA, Canadian Cancer Society, Thorold Minor Soccer, Hotel Dieu Hospital, Brock University, Thorold Library, Thorold Arena, Thorold Secondary School, Thorold Girls Softball, Arthritis Society, Meals on Wheels, Bethlehem House, Thorold Santa Claus Parade, Niagara Peninsula Children's Centre, Niagara Region Sexual Assault Centre, Thorold Figure Skating, Thorold Senior Citizens, and the Alzheimer Society.

And while Covid-19 has temporarily halted fundraising breakfasts as well as their biggest moneymaker, beef-on-a-bun, they hope to re-start as soon as possible.

“We’re known for our beef-on-a-bun,” Scalzi noted. “We try to find things that meet our fundraising by building community.”

Fun fact: More than 9,000 beef-on-a-bun meals have been served up by Thorold Knights at Holy Rosary.

And in the meantime, they’ve come up with creative ways to raise money; their recent bottle drive, batteries collection and food drive is a prime example. Called "The Giving Back Weekend," the empty bottles and batteries collection enabled them to donate $1,000 to the Walker Family Cancer Centre.

Another fun fact: More than 8,640 eggs have been scrambled for parish breakfasts; 1,680 turkeys have been raffled off; and 56 golf tournaments have been held to raise money.

Each year, the Knights host a Free Throw competition to foster the values of sportsmanship and athletic competition at local schools, with a regional competition held at Holy Cross School.

“The Catholic schools help us organize it and we provide a graduation award,” in the form of a monetary donation to a female and male student from each of three schools, he explained.

Last spring, the Knights took over Thorold's community fertilizer sale from Theresa and John Tepylo, who previously operated the annual charity fundraiser.

“It was pretty successful for our first year,” said Scalzi. “We donated $1,200 to Special Olympics, $1,200 to Wellspring, and $1,200 to St. Vincent de Paul.”

Lifelong Thorold resident Frank Durbiano has been a Knight for 14 years, and said he was “drawn to the club for the good works they do, helping the parish and other people.”

Most memorable for John Dominic was when a grandchild of one of the Knights' had brain cancer, “and we helped.”

While many clubs struggle to keep members, the Thorold Knights boast four generations of Knights in the Pisano family—Joe, Nick, Mike, and Mike Jr.

Leonard Savoia, who followed in the footsteps of his father, Eugene, began as a Knight in 1986, left for a period and then “came back in 2000, and has been more actively involved since then. It’s been a lot of great memories; a lot of hard working guys that work together as a group, raising a lot of money. We are here to help a lot of charities. I enjoy every moment. We’re trying to get new members and hope young members will continue it."

According to Dan Fenton, a Knight for 23 years, “They help each other, but more importantly, they help the community, in all different facets.”

Mike Pennachetti became involved 25 years ago, and has enjoyed the “fraternal aspects of it, and helping people down on their luck.”

Bob Merrill has been a Knight for 26 or 27 years, and said that—with a long interruption--the year 2021 marks 100 years of the Knights of Columbus existing in Thorold.

According to Knights' documents, the Order was established in 1921, with Edward Foley, born in 1864, named the club's first Grand Knight. The club stayed active from 1921 to 1939, presumably closing its doors because of the outbreak of World War II. The club lay silent in Thorold from 1939 until 1978, and was re-chartered in 1979.

The Knights' emblem was created in 1883 by then Supreme Knight James T. Mullen, who designed a shield associated with a medieval knight. The anchor is the mariner's symbol for Columbus, patron of the Order, while the short sword or dagger was the weapon of the Knight when engaged upon an errand of mercy. “Thus, the shield expresses Catholic Knighthood in organized merciful action,” according to club literature.

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