Local Knights of Columbus and family members hosted a free pork steak meal for local first responders in Jefferson City on Friday evening, a day and a half after a major tornado cut a swath of destruction through the city.
The meal was prepared and served in Knights of Columbus Fr. Helias Council 1054's hall on Tanner Bridge Road, a short distance from some of the heavy damage.
A large contingent of Knights and family members turned out to prepare and serve the meals and greet visiting police officers, sheriff's deputies, firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, ambulance personnel, utility linesmen and other first responders.
Father Donald Antweiler, pastor of Immaculate Conception parish, and Father Jeremy Secrist, pastor of St. Peter parish, both in Jefferson City, visited with the first responders and helped with carry-out orders.
Secrist led the assembled in prayer: "God, our Heavenly Father, we ask You to continue to send Your many blessings upon all of us and most particularly the first responders and all who have come to this community to assist us in our need. We ask that the hospitality and the time that we spend together this evening may build up this whole community and keep us strong in faith and always trusting in You. We make this prayer through Christ, our Lord."
"Our Knights hall just missed a direct hit," noted Mike Flanagan, grand knight of Fr. Helias Council 1054. "First responders who are our neighbors and friends along with others who do not live near us answered calls for assistance immediately. They have come from various parts of the state to offer a helping hand to people they have never met.
"We want to say thank you to those heroes who answered our assistance calls," he said.
Pat Schaefer and other local Knights started firing up the grills behind the hall around 9 a.m. The food was ready to serve by 4 p.m.
Sponsors of the meal included Knights of Columbus councils: Fr. Helias Council 1054, Bishop McAuliffe Council 12992 and Msgr. Pleus Council 14906, all in Jefferson City; Annunciation Council 9271 in California; St. Andrew Council 8400 in Holts Summit; St. Martin Council 7194 in St. Martins; St. Michael Council 8916 in Russellville; St. Thomas the Apostle Council 2149 in St. Thomas; St. Francis Xavier Council 6430 in Taos; Wardsville-Osage Bend Council 8399; and the St. James the Greater Council; the Knights' St. Jude Fourth Degree Assembly 1567 and auxiliary in Mary's Home; Central Dairy, Fechtel Beverage and Schulte's Fresh Foods in Jefferson City and Shirk's Country Market in Centertown.
"The Knights step up in disaster work, and there are so many councils around here," said Jeff Brondel, former Knights district deputy and a member of the St. Martins council, who spearheaded the event.
The key was for the councils to work together to cover the cost of food and the overhead in order to help the people serving on the front lines of this disaster.
Local Knights also planned to deliver hams Saturday to storm victims.