Bikes program distributes 140 bikes Dec. 20th

To assert the Knights of Pythias fraternal organization felt like it was pedaling headlong into a hurricane with this year’s Bikes for Boys and Girls program would be painfully understated.

First, last year’s Hurricane Nate wiped out the annual Florida Scallop and Music Festival, resulting in a dramatically scaled-back fest this year.

That loss undermined the Knights’ fundraising and awareness campaigns, with the Scallop Festival serving each year as a kickoff for a fundraising raffle which also brought attention to the program.

And, of course, the second whopper was served up in October by Hurricane Michael, robbing the program of precious time and resources while simultaneously expanding the need for the program.

To top it all off, there have been many generous donors to children this Christmas, including the annual Gulf County Sheriff’s Office Toy Drive, that have crowded the holiday philanthropy market.

But, as Clarence Monette of the Knights of Pythias noted this week, the community has always been generous with the program and this year that generosity spread its wings across the country, or least as far as Kansas City.

For example, the day after a newspaper article appeared in late October about the program’s 2018 launch, a woman strolled into the newspaper’s office with a new bike to donate.

The giving continued right through the Christmas on the Coast parade two weeks ago.

“One lady just walked up to me at the parade and gave me a donation,” Monette said. “Really, it has gone really good this year.

“We’ve had a lot of donations from local people and a lot of from other places.”

From Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and, yes, Kansas City, among other spots on the map, donations of dollars, and sometimes bikes, arrived.

All that giving will result in more than 140 children having a bike under their Christmas tree that might otherwise not have one without the Bikes for Boys and Girls program.

“People were so generous, it is amazing,” Monette said. “It is so heartwarming.

“But I am not surprised. People in this community have always been so generous to our program.”

Working with guidance offices in both elementary schools, the Knights identify those children in need of some wheeled-wonder that would otherwise be out of reach for their household resources.

The paperwork has already been sent home for a signature from parents or guardians.

This week the Knights got to work putting all those bikes together, readying them for the kids and Christmas scenes around the county.

Distribution will be Saturday, in Port St. Joe City Commons and Lake Alice Park in Wewahitchka.

By Tim Croft / The Port St. Joe Star | 850-227-7827 / @PSJ_Star | tcroft@starfl.com

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Hidden Castle Even has Knights

Hidden Castle Even has Knights

While impressive on the outside, the lodge’s true splendor lies within. Its grandest room, known as Castle Hall, offers 35-foot vaulted ceilings, three elliptical skylights, mahogany panels and ornately carved furnishings that date back to the building’s construction. Watercolor-on-canvas murals along the ceiling portray the tale of Damon and Pythias. They were painted 110 years ago by scenic artist Carl Reyna, who was paid $35 per panel for his efforts. The century-old light fixtures also offer a glimpse into the lodge’s history   since they provide both electric outlets and gas lamps – just in case the “new technology” of electricity did not gain popularity.

Pythian Home decks the halls for holidays

“It’s for families in need, so when a family has fallen on a hard time they can place their child here, and once the family is back on their feet they can take their child back, they don’t ever lose their rights,” she said.

The holidays were the perfect time to invite people and let them know the home isn’t closed off to the public, Watson said.

Pythian Temple downtown was once the ‘center of black life’ in New Orleans

If you stroll by the historic building today, you'll find upscale apartments and a market with food and retail vendors.But in its heyday, the Pythian was where Louis Armstrong played at the rooftop garden, where black-owned businesses were started and operated, and where The Louisiana Weekly was founded.

The building was developed in 1909 by Smith W. Green, a former slave who emerged as a successful businessman who was the leader of the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal organization established by Congress in the wake of the Civil War in an effort to unite the country.