NEW HAVEN, Conn., June 24, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As Catholics throughout the United States prepare for Pope Francis' visit this summer, the Knights of Columbus has been preparing in a special way, with record-setting charity.
With Illinois helping to lead the way, the Knights of Columbus set a new all-time record in 2014 for charitable donations and service hours with $173,550,680 in donations and more than 71.5 million hours of service. Illinois Knights raised more than $7.8 million and notched over 3 million hours of service. Illinois' donations were second only to Texas in the United States with hours of service the fourth highest total among U.S. states.
Worldwide, the number of service hours contributed by members rose last year by more than a million hours over the 2013 total with each member donating nearly a full work week on average.
"Charity has been at the heart of the Knights' mission for the past 133 years," said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. "In America, Pope Francis will find a Church that is alive with the love of God and love of neighbor, and the Knights of Columbus are excellent examples of this reality."
According to the K of C's Annual Survey of Fraternal Activity for the year ending Dec. 31, 2014, donations worldwide grew by more than $3.4 million over 2013, achieving an increase in giving for the 15th consecutive year.
Among its major donations in 2014, the Knights of Columbus made a gift of $1.4 million to directly support athletes who will take part in this summer's Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles. The funds will cover the cost of transportation, housing and meals for the athletes as they travel to the games, stay there during the competition, and return home. Supreme Knight Anderson also asked the K of C state jurisdiction to step up their already strong support for Special Olympics athletes.
Another unique initiative in 2014 was the Knights of Columbus Christian Refugee Relief Fund, which has contributed $2.6 million for humanitarian assistance to those suffering persecution and dislocation in Iraq and the surrounding region.
"It has shocked the conscience of the world that people are systematically being purged from the region where their families have lived for millennia – simply for their faith," said Mr. Anderson at the program's inception in August. "It is imperative that we stand in solidarity with them."
Gifts by the Knights of $200,000 each were also made to the Greek and Latin Rite Catholic communities of war-torn Ukraine for humanitarian relief, supporting projects that feed and aid homeless children and refugees living on the streets of the capital city of Kiev.
The Knights continued to support their local communities in 2014 through such programs as the Black Friday Coats for Kids program, Food for Families and blood drives. Knights also gave assistance to such organizations as Habitat for Humanity and the American Wheelchair Mission.
During the past decade the Knights of Columbus has donated nearly $1.55 billion to charity and 691 million hours of volunteer service in support of charitable initiatives.
The K of C was founded by Venerable Servant of God Father Michael McGivney, a New Haven parish priest, in 1882. The organization was formed to provide charitable outreach and care for the financial well-being of Catholic families, focusing on the protection of widows and orphans, and on strengthening the faith of its members. It has grown to include 1.8 million members throughout North and Central America, the Philippines, the Caribbean and Europe.
SOURCE Knights of Columbus