Knights of Columbus student group gives back to the community

GVL / Courtesy Knights of Colombus

GVL / Courtesy Knights of Colombus

Drew Howard

The Grand Valley State University Student Knights of Columbus, an extension of the larger Knights of Columbus, is a Catholic-based group of students that has been devoting its resources to community service and charity since it began on campus in the 2013-2014 academic year.

Knights of Columbus was originally founded in 1882 by Friar Michael McGivney of New Haven, Connecticut. Now, 133 years later, the group is known as the world’s largest Catholic fraternity with 1.8 million members worldwide.

With the help of members from the organization’s Allendale council, GVSU’s Student Knights of Columbus was started by student members Sebastian Cooper and Rich Dorsch. Today, the club is headed by President Ethan Ruffing, a junior at GVSU.

As president, Ruffing has helped organize a number of community service events, both on campus as well as in the Allendale area.

“We look to do just about any form of community service that we can,” Ruffing said. “So far, we’ve done ice cream socials at the Veterans Home in Grand Rapids, helped the Students for Life group in their fundraisers for the local pregnancy center, as well run semi-annual fundraisers for Allendale schools special needs program.”

This semi-annual fundraiser is known as the Mentally Impaired Drive. At the fundraiser, members of the Student Knights of Columbus stand near the Cook Carillon Tower as well as by the Transformational Link sculpture to hand out tootsie rolls for donations.

Eighty percent of the money made from the MI Drive goes toward the Allendale schools special needs program. The remaining 20 percent is donated to the Michigan State Special Olympics.

Tyler Hines, secretary of the Student Knights of Columbus, said the group visits the Veteran’s Home in Grand Rapids roughly three to four times a year.

“We go to the Veterans Home to do an ice cream social,” Hines said. “We just go there and talk with the guys, give them some ice cream and then watch “Hogan’s Heroes” with them. That’s their favorite show.”

In an effort to raise money for future events, the Student Knights of Columbus recently performed a scrap metal drive on Oct. 31.

At the event, the group drove to a number of houses and farms to collect pieces of scrap metal that were later taken to a scrap yard. The money earned went directly toward the Allendale council’s general-purpose event fund.

While club membership is open only to men of the Catholic faith, Hines said Student Knights of Columbus meetings do not operate like a Bible study.

“Our meetings might open with a prayer, but by and large it’s just about doing community service and trying to be productive members of the community,” he said. “Catholicism is what brought us together, but we don’t focus on it at all during the meetings. It’s just about doing good works.”

Individuals who are not Catholic are still allowed and encouraged to attend a majority of the meetings as well as help with service projects, Ruffing said.

“We are all eager to help out the community in any way we can – our biggest issue so far has been finding ways to help,” he said. “We always welcome anybody to contact us with any projects they are working where they could use some extra hands.”

Meetings for Student Knights of Columbus take place at 9 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of each month inside the Cook-DeWitt Center Conference Room. The club’s schedule will change following the end of the winter semester when it merges with the Allendale council.

For more information about the Student Knights of Columbus, visit their student organization page at