Knights Vow to Rebuild Burned-out Facility

Group searches for new site for children’s Christmas party

The Knights of Columbus lodge in the West End suffered a devastating fire Monday morning. Grand Knight Rob Browne vows to rebuild the facility. (Credit: Joseph Kellard)
The Knights of Columbus lodge in the West End suffered a devastating fire Monday morning. Grand Knight Rob Browne vows to rebuild the facility. (Credit: Joseph Kellard)
Story by Jeff Lipton. 

The early-morning fire that gutted the Knights of Columbus headquarters Monday morning only helped to strengthen the resolve of its members to rebuild the facility.

The building, at 970 West Beech St., which had been used as a distribution point for Hurricane Sandy victims, was due to re-open as a Knights of Columbus lodge when the fire struck at around 2 a.m. The West End lodge was closed due to flooding from Sandy.

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“We have done so much for the community,” said Ronald Browne, grand knight of the Long Beach Knights of Columbus Msgr. Cass 2626. “We are still here and we will be stronger than ever. We were under water during Sandy and we cleaned it up just to serve the community.”

He said the members vow to rebuild the building, but he does not know how long it will take or how much money it will cost. He said the cause of the fire has not yet been determined, but it is not believed to be suspicious.

Besides finding a temporary headquarters, the group’s main focus now is locating another site to hold its annual children’s Christmas party, which was set for Dec. 23, Browne said.

“We do the children’s party every year,” he said. “It’s important for the community. I don’t want to disappoint those kids. I would like to keep it in the West End.”

Richard Papetti, who has served as a grand knight and as a bartender for the Knights, said the fire was a stunning blow for the community.

“The fire has affected all those who have given their heart and soul to the community and the Church,” Papetti said. “The Knights have been an important part of life in Long Beach for over 80 years. Many people were affected emotionally and yet the one thing on the front of everyone's mind is the children’s Christmas party.

“Grand Knight Ron Browne has been an instrumental force in survival after the storm along with many volunteers. The impact of the fire and the hope of rebuilding is a question no one is ready to answer right now.”

Carol Kenney, who has lived in the West End for 28 years, said the building has served as a vital cog for those in need after the storm, distributing clothing, food and warm encouragement to storm-weary residents.

Kenney said she stopped in about three weeks ago for a cup of coffee and she ended up volunteering for five hours.

“It was amazing,” she said. “It was a place where people could just get a hot meal. They were a shining star for the community. It was just a welcoming place.

“Those people were angels in a time of need. They were doing great things. I hope things get better for them.”

She added that it’s time for the community to give back by helping to raise money to repair the building.

In the meantime, Browne said he will hold Knights of Columbus meetings in his living room if he has to. He said he was waiting for the final assessment on the burned-out building.

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“Right now, there are four walls and no roof,” said Browne, whose group boasts 365 members. “The building is done, it’s finished. But we will rebuild in the same spot. We will still be involved in the community and we will still serve the parishes in the community.

“This is a nightmare,” Browne added. “I can’t believe this happened, but we’re going to bounce back. I refuse to let that building go down.”

Anyone interesting in helping the Knights can call Browne at (516) 889-0701.

goatcheesepleez December 11, 2012 at 07:47 AM
I want to echo the plea to check all outlets. Two fires in a week raise eyebrows to the fact they we may not be completely out of harms way after Sandy. A neighbor may have a simple tool that tests your electrical outlets.
paul.d.spellman December 11, 2012 at 08:12 AM
Goatcheeseman has a good suggestion, but remember, your neighbor just may be a tool himself so you are probably best leaving the power off until an electrician can check out your house.
Longbeacher December 11, 2012 at 11:27 AM
PAUL is right ,just leave your electric of ,who needs electric ? also you can can put up a tent in your back yard and live there ,a ELECTRICIAN brought to my attention .I'M NOT SAYING ITS TRUE,he said there 's a group of electricians that do the work in LB ,the city makes it so hard for outside electricians to do work here that they don't ,and now that they need them ,there thumbing there noses at us ,JUST THE MESSENGER DONT SHOOT ME
Seashell December 11, 2012 at 01:22 PM
The city makes it hard for outside anybody to do work here. That's why I often find friends in other places paying less. I had a personal situation a few years ago when an outside ( LICENSED in NASSAU) company could not get a permit for me to install an AC unit- told them I needed an architecht and had to go to the zoning board. When I asked for three companies from the bldg dept that they recommend they give them to me, never argued with the architecht thing. Oh, yeah the guy on THEIR list got the permit in five minutes.
Seashell December 11, 2012 at 01:24 PM
on the fires...yes, please everyone needs to be careful, especially if the homes are not being lived in and people are leaving on timer lights. etc. However, the rumor mill has it that the house fire last week was arson, not electrical. Again, don't shoot me, but we want to keep things in perspective.
John December 12, 2012 at 11:48 AM
The rumor mill also has it that you are a Jack A$$. According to the Fire Marshal it was an accident.
Hamburger December 12, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Irish Lightning
John December 12, 2012 at 02:48 PM
This poor woman's memories of her late husband up in smoke and you knuckleheads speculate. It must be nice to know all of the facts.
Mdf December 13, 2012 at 06:21 PM
I am so disgusted by people. How dare anyone even leave comments like that based on rumors!! You should be ashamed of yourself and I would love to meet you in person and say that to you! Again I'm disgusted
Mdf December 13, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Oh I am referring to "sea shell"


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