K of C leader says charities must increase volunteer activity in time of financial crisis


In a speech at Fairfield University on Friday, Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, called for a summit of charitable and volunteer organizations to be held in New York City on Feb. 27 to address volunteerism and charitable response to the economic crisis. The New York summit is being co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Fairfield University Center for Faith and Public Life.

With the charitable giving index down 22 percent, the lowest point in a decade, and the economic crisis affecting nonprofit organizations nationwide, Anderson said it is undeniable that greed was a major contributing factor to the crisis. "If greed - one of the worst aspects of human nature - helped push us into this crisis, then one of the best aspects of our nature - generosity - will be necessary to help pull us out of it," he said.

Speaking just days after the Jan. 19 National Day of Service, Anderson called for Americans to take the spirit of that day forward and to make 2009 "the year of the volunteer." He encouraged charitable organizations to work together with the new administration to emphasize and create opportunities for volunteers and stressed the importance of neighbors helping neighbors.

Recalling his own experience following the devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, he said, "I joined our Texas volunteers at the Astrodome in Houston. There, I was privileged to see not only the fine work that the Knights were doing, but the way in which many groups of volunteers and organizations came together." One group that worked alongside the Knights, he said, "was a Muslim women’s group from New Jersey. Our common cause at that moment overcame any cultural, religious, or organizational differences. For in the Astrodome we were not representatives of different groups, we were neighbors volunteering to help those of our community who were most in need."

Calling for the same spirit of concern for neighbor, Anderson said, "Let us work to make that spirit of volunteerism the hallmark of our nation’s recovery. Let us truly become a nation of neighbors helping neighbors. If we do that, we will have accomplished much more than an economic recovery, we will have set a new and powerful moral compass for the future of our country."

Also offering remarks were the Most. Rev. William Lori, Bishop of Bridgeport, who noted there has been a hundred percent increase in demand among food pantries, and Rev. Richard Ryscavage, S.J., director of the Center for Faith and Public Life, which sponsored Anderson’s talk.

Rev. Jeffrey von Arx, S.J., president of Fairfield University, opened the event saying how pleased he is that Fairfield and the Center for Faith and Public Life was asked to host Anderson’s address and to work with the Knights of Columbus on the summit. The Center for Faith and Public Life was founded, he said, "to serve as a focal point for our determination to become more actively engaged in the humanitarian concerns of the world around us. It is the role of the center to foster a climate of compassionate concern within and beyond the boundaries of our University, and to look for practical, hands-on solutions to the problems faced by our neighbors, locally and around the world."

The Knights of Columbus is one of the nation's most active volunteer organizations, and is the world's largest lay Catholic organization. It counts more than 1.75 million members worldwide organized into more than 13,000 councils. Last year Knights donated more than $144 million and more than 68 million hours to charity.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on January 27, 2009

Vol. 41, No. 193