By Sydney DeLosh
Mason Times staff writer
MASON — After 26 years, Mason’s Knights of Columbus group continues to find success with its annual spring fish fries at St. James Catholic Church.
The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men’s fraternal organization, was founded in 1882 and was named in honor of Christopher Columbus. In 1985, Father Kenneth McDonald founded Council #9182 in Mason and the council became affiliated with St. James Church where its charter was established and where the group’s meetings take place.
Today, Council #9182 consists of 177 members who participate in service projects for community organizations and individuals in need.
Among the Knights’ many projects, their annual fish fries are the only fundraising event of the year. These fish fries, that begin four to five weeks prior to the Catholic Lenten season and yield between $20,000 and $25,000 each year, are the Knights’ main source of funding.
The fish fries are run by 20-30 members of the Knights of Columbus and their families.
“It’s a family based event and organization,” Grand Knight Jeff Haueter said.
Bill Bond, a member of the Knights of Columbus since 1989, worked as a cashier at the fish fries for six years until a new job with new hours prevented him from working that position. However, he continues to come and support the fish fries.
“My wife makes cupcakes for the fish fry and I come to eat,” Bond said.
In addition to the Knights volunteers, members of the St. James Youth Group are also involved in working the fish fry.
Youth minister Martha Williams has been a parishioner of St. James for 40 years and says she has attended about 99 percent of the fish fries. Williams works with the high school and junior high students who bus tables and said it is their service project to give back to the Knights for the financial help they give the youth group.
Held on Friday evenings from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., the fish fries serve rolls, green beans, coleslaw, baked potatoes, French fries, macaroni and cheese, fried fish, fried shrimp, baked fish and an assortment of desserts. An adult meal costs $9 for one trip through the buffet line or $12 all you can eat. Senior meals are $8 each, children ages 5-12 are $4, and children under 4 eat for free. Last year the Knights served more than 6,000 meals and they plan to do the same this year.
Each fish fry also holds a 50/50 raffle. The proceeds of the raffle go toward the Knights scholarship fund benefitting a member of St. James.
In recent years, the Knights have used the funding from the fish fries to help purchase equipment for the church, help the youth group travel to summer camp, and donate money to Eden Church after it burned down. This year, the Knights are using some of their money to help send Mason High School’s marching band to Disneyworld to perform this spring.
Adding another fundraising endeavor to the event, the Knights had a silent auction to raise money for the Blackthorn, a Celtic musical group, concert at St. James. The auction, of items donated by parishioners and local businesses, began six weeks prior to the concert and continued at each fish fry until the concert on March 24.
The Knights’ final fish fry will be held after Holy Week on Friday, April 13 from 4-8 p.m. All proceeds from this fish fry will benefit the St. Vincent de Paul Society to assist in the rebuilding of the Lansing location that was damaged in a fire on Dec. 19, 2011. At this fish fry adults will be charged $10, children $5 and children under 4 will still eat for free.
Although based in Mason, the Knights of Columbus are proud to say that their fish fries have brought in members from other parishes and communities.
“The fish fries have really become a Mason community event, not strictly for the Catholic church in Mason,” Haueter said. “I would say half the people are from other churches in our community and the surrounding communities. We get people from Leslie, Eaton Rapids, Lansing and Holt. I would say half of them aren’t even Catholic. It’s become more of a community-based event here in Mason.”