For the past 100 years, the Lemont Knights of Columbus Council 1599 has dedicated itself to the organization's founding principles — charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism.
The council has seen its members through several wars—World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam, among others—personal struggles and triumphs. It has also seen the village of Lemont through a century of growth and development.
Through it all, the organization has built a longstanding brotherhood, as well as an unwavering commitment to the Lemont community.
"One of the things that's really special about the Knights of Columbus is that we are rooted in faith," said Grand Knight Bob Porter, a third-generation Knight who has been a member of the Lemont council for 42 years. "We stay true to our church and our country, and that motivates everything we do."
The Knights of Columbus is an international organization founded in 1882 by Father Michael McGivney, a 29-year-old priest from New Haven, CT. The members were committed to being defenders of their country, their families and their faith.
The order was also intended to provide life insurance for widows and orphans of deceased members. The program has since expanded to accommodate the Knights' growing membership.
Today, the Knights of Columbus is one of the largest Catholic organizations in the world, boasting more than 14,000 councils and 1.8 million members throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Poland, the Phillippines and several other countries.
The Lemont council was chartered Dec. 10, 1911. On Saturday—exactly one century later—its members held a 100th anniversary mass at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church, 210 Logan St., and a formal dinner at Crystal Grand Banquets, 12416 Archer Ave.
"It's extremely satisfying to see a council celebrate such an important milestone," said Logan Ludwig, a member of Lemont Council 1599 who was named supreme treasurer of the organization this year.
Ludwig said the Lemont council's anniversary is a celebration of the organization's values. He emphasized members' commitment to becoming better citizens and Catholics, serving the church and community, and promoting and protecting family.
"There's really nothing better than seeing a council achieve such longstanding success in a community," he said.
According to Porter, the Lemont Knights continue to provide service to the village's four Catholic churches, as well as numerous local youth, adult and special needs groups. Last year, the Knights—along with the Veterans of Foreign Affairs and the American Legion—helped create a scholarship program to send Boy Scouts to camp.
The organization has also supported a number of youth sports teams, supplied volunteers for the Lemont Police Department's Kops-n-Kidz program and provided interpreters to the hearing impaired.
The Knights' largest and most popular fundraiser is the "Tootsie Roll Drive," which raises thousands each year for the Special Education Religious Education (SPRED) organization. SPRED, founded in 1960, helps people with developmental or learning disabilities.
Porter said funds from the Tootsie Roll drive are donated to SPRED programs at St. Alphonsus and St. Patrick churches in Lemont.
"We donate 100 percent of those funds to make sure Lemont's special needs residents are taken care of," he said. "It's one of the most important things we do."
Glen Missaggia, 64, has been a member of the Lemont council for 10 years. He cited the Knights' commitment to special needs causes as one his favorite things about the organization.
"Our fundraisers are always my favorite events of the year, especially because they're so important for the organizations we support," he said.
Missaggia said the Knights have also provided invaluable support as he and his wife both battle cancer.
"The camaraderie and friendships I've found with the Knights ... it's provided such a support for me and my family," Missaggia said. "I think we all give that to each other. It's a special bond."'
Now that the Lemont council has achieved the 100-year benchmark, Porter said the group is hoping to attract younger members to keep it going for another century.
Glenn Mathias, one of the council's younger members, joined the organization in April. Two of his neighbors are also members — including fourth-generation Knight Mark Kickels.
"I think it's important that younger guys get involved," Mathias said. "It's a great way to give back to your community and feel like you're part of a group."
The Knights meet the first Tuesday of each month at the Lemont VFW Post 5819, 15780 New Ave. For more information, contact Bob Porter at 630-257-2321.