General News

Sharing Talents

Posted on March 21, 2024 in: General News

Sharing Talents

Seven councils collaborate to paint homes at an Indiana community for adults with disabilities

By Cecilia Engbert



As Mike Catania, a member of Nativity of Our Savior Council 9114 in Portage, Indiana, helped his son Steven move into a new home in November 2021, he noticed the house’s exterior needed a cleaning and a new coat of paint. So Catania did what dads do: He volunteered to tackle the job.

It wasn’t long, however, before the project outgrew his one-man crew. Steven’s new home was Sharing Meadows, a 200-acre residential community for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities operated by the Share Foundation. Thirty residents, called villagers, live in 15 houses on the property in La Porte, a small town in northwest Indiana.

No sooner had Catania started painting his son’s house than two young women who lived across the street came over to help paint the shutters. And when the house was finished, they asked him, “When will you be painting our house?”

“When the young women asked, it was like that was already my desire,” Catania said. “I didn’t want to just paint Steven’s house; I’d like to get all the houses painted. And it just naturally became something that made sense to bring to the Knights.”

Council 9114, to which Steven also belongs, jumped on board with the idea and encouraged Catania to invite other councils to help. Throughout 2022, Mike and Steven visited councils around the area to explain the project, collecting donations and volunteers along the way.

The project became a multi-council success, with seven councils from Indiana and Michigan providing more than $8,500 in funds, equipment and, most importantly, manpower. Over six weekends last summer, 22 Knights and family members donated 255 hours of labor to clean and paint nine homes.

Joining Council 9114 were Queen of All Saints Council 12951 in Michigan City, St. Clement Council 3283 in Lake Station, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Council 7473 in Valparaiso, St. John Kanty Council 14240 in Rolling Prairie and St. Michael Council 1542 in La Porte — all in Indiana — and St. Mary of the Lake Council 14366 in New Buffalo, Michigan.

“What the Knights did, it transformed the houses; they look brand new,” said Bill Harmon, executive director of the Share Foundation and a Knight himself. “The Knights’ gift of time and effort saved us thousands of dollars that we simply didn’t have.”

The foundation, a Christian nonprofit that operates summer camps for adults with disabilities as well as Sharing Meadows, receives no government funding and relies entirely on private donations and fundraising. The Knights’ project checked off an item on the organization’s to-do list that kept being pushed back by other pressing needs, such as growing the residential community, sending residents to Special Olympics competitions or updating kitchen appliances in the homes.

“Eighteen villagers now have smiles as they proudly enjoy their updated homes,” Catania said. “The Knights are just plain good people that you know you can depend on.”

Jeff Roberts, past grand knight of Council 14366, is one of those Knights to be depended on. Roberts and his family regularly volunteer at Sharing Meadows and, as the owner of a private painting company, he was instantly interested in Catania’s project. Through his business connections, he helped acquire discounted paint and equipment, saving about $1,200.

“I talked to my paint supplier at Sherwin-Williams here and introduced Mike Catania to the managers to work on getting a deal,” Roberts said. “Through my company, we did three houses. What the volunteers couldn’t do — height-wise and things like that — my company did since I have the insurance and can cover that kind of risk.”

Council 14366, which donated $5,800 toward the project, has supported the Share Foundation for more than 10 years through its fund drive for people with intellectual disabilities. In fact, the organization has been a favorite charity of many Indiana and Michigan councils since the 1990s. Support from the Knights has helped lower the attendance fee for its summer camps from $1,400 to $450.

Catania hopes the painting project, and the opportunity it gave Knights to spend time with Sharing Meadows’ residents, will only strengthen their efforts to serve the community.

“Bringing people to Sharing Meadows — that exposure helps you understand what it’s about,” he said.

Many of the villagers helped with the project, happy to add painting and power-washing to their regular construction and maintenance tasks. Sharing Meadows residents work on the property every day, in addition to making items such as soap, walking sticks and jewelry.

“Our residents absolutely loved being a part of it, watching them, helping them — participating together,” Harmon said. “They will remember that for the rest of their lives.”

“When you volunteer at Sharing Meadows, you meet the folks who live there, and they’re so friendly and want to sit and have lunch with you; they’re just thrilled. It’s a great experience,” Roberts said. “As Knights, we’re always looking for different ways to help others. Our council raises funds to help them along the way, but if you can put your boots on the ground and actually do something, that makes it more real.”

Harmon would like to see a continued connection between Knights and the villagers, envisioning a program where councils adopt a village — which consists of three homes — and foster ongoing relationships.

“Our folks have a great purpose and so much to offer,” he said. “But they still are a very underserved population, and to see the Knights taking care of those vulnerable populations is really beautiful.”


CECILIA ENGBERT is a content producer for the Knights of Columbus communications department.