The Knights of Pythias donate $55,000 to the LaGrange County Community Foundation

The LaGrange Knights of Pythias Lodge No. 144 disbanded after 128 years and donated $55,000 to create an unrestricted endowment fund at the LaGrange County Community Foundation. The fund will support community grantmaking and address needs in the community. From left, in front, are past LCCF board president George Brown, Knights of Pythias members Mahlon Bontrager, Allen Connelly, Richard Long, the late Duane L. Sams, Tom Atwater and current LCCF board president Neal Wolheter. In row two, from left, are LCCF Interim Executive Director Dave Bennett, Knights of Pythias members Gordon Olds, Ken Bousner, Mike Farber, the late Harvey Lambright, Roger Olds and Myron Sharp.

LaGrange Lodge no. 144 creates permanent unrestricted endowment

As the Knights of Pythias LaGrange Lodge no. 144 closed the chapter on a 128-year-old history in 2018, the creation of a permanent endowment fund at the LaGrange County Community Foundation will allow their charitable legacy to live forever.

In December, the Knights donated $55,000 to create a permanent unrestricted endowment at the Community Foundation. While the fund will provide long-term support for community grantmaking, their gift also will be matched 2-for-1 through a matching grant from Lilly Endowment.

The Knight’s search for a meaningful gift came at an opportune time: it was a rare chance for the Knights to triple their gift and create a permanent charitable legacy. The Endowment is providing $2 for every $1 contributed to LaGrange County Community Foundation unrestricted endowments during the matching period, October 1, 2018, through December 31, 2020, up to $500,000. 

With the Lilly 2-for-1 match, the Knights’ gift now becomes $165,000. The income from the fund will support charitable projects in LaGrange County as determined by the LCCF Board of Directors.

“The members of our Lodge no. 144 feel very fortunate to have our donation grow and benefit several organizations thanks to the LaGrange County Community Foundation,” said Gordon Olds, a Knights of Pythias member.   

 “We are humbled by the generosity of the Knights of Pythias. Their gift establishes a permanent legacy and will provide long-term funding to nonprofits working to improve LaGrange County,” said Octavia Yoder, LaGrange County Community Foundation Associate Director. “We are thankful for their partnership and support in the Lilly Endowment matching grant.”

The Knights of Pythias

Chartered on October 16, 1890, the Knights of Pythias are one of the oldest fraternal organizations in LaGrange County.

In 1912, the group began meeting in the upstairs of what is today Foltz Bakery. In those early days, the meeting space contained ornate furniture, velvet robes, oil paintings and valuable memorabilia with gemstones. Those items were used during the Knights’ induction ceremonies. The Knights sold the building in 2008.  

Among their philanthropic interests, the Knights of Pythias count many as beneficiaries. They sponsored Little League Baseball teams, the LaGrange County Police Department, Special Olympics, ARC Opportunities, LaGrange County Council on Aging, LaGrange County 4-H, Clothes and Food Basket, Habitat for Humanity, Reason 4 Hope, LaGrange County Historical Society, United Fund of LaGrange County, ARK Animal Rescue, Youth for Christ, Relay for Life, Night to Shine and Agape Mission.

Their most popular fundraiser was selling Plyley’s caramel apples at Corn School.

While Knights of Pythias focused on supporting local needs, much of the draw for its members was the social aspect of the club. Being a part of the lodge was a tradition the members did not take lightly; many members today had grandfathers who were also a part of the lodge.

The Knights can count among their group eight 50-year members: Duane Billman, Allen Connelly, Gordon Frost, Richard Long, Jack Olds, Roger Olds, and the late Harvey Lambright and Duane Sams.

One member said as a young boy his father worked in the fields from dawn until dusk, but made the Knights meeting a priority. Even when the weather was impassible with blowing snow and ice, members trudged through knee-deep drifts of snow.

Before his passing, the late Duane Sams shared with the Community Foundation his proudest moment as a 50-year member: pinning a 50-year pin on his grandfather. Not many members had Sam’s privilege.

With the Knights’ gift to the Community Foundation, their charitable legacy will live forever.