By Pat Day, Bill Samuels Jr. and Sherry Crose
As politics can get in the way of doing good things, we would like to bring attention to an historic Kentucky organization that remains a non-political, charitable group dedicated to helping the neediest – the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels (HOKC).
First let’s clarify a few things. Many, even some appointed colonels, think the title is a political gesture by the governor. While historically there has been some truth to that, by joining the honorable order you become an active colonel and exercise this honor to make a difference, instead of hanging the proclamation on your wall just for conversation.
Furthermore, the honorable order is a viable 501(c) 3 receiving no funds or direction from state government. By avoiding political issues and staying focused on helping needy Kentuckians through the Good Works Program, it granted about $1.5 million to worthy causes touching over 50 percent of Kentucky’s population in 2017 — often in areas overlooked by larger charitable organizations.
HOKC remarkably delivers 85 cents of every donated dollar to charity and runs the organization on the remaining 15 percent, because its board of trustees are in the trenches doing the work. Grant requests range from a special needs wheelchair, to shelters for the abused or a new stove for a boys’ shelter in a rural community.
Over the years, HOKC raised more than $47 million and distributed these funds to charities. What’s most inspiring is that donations range from $1 to major gifts, both from Kentuckians and often from colonels not living here – a trend started by several movie stars during Hollywood’s Golden Age, who as active colonels raised disaster relief funds after the Great Flood of 1937.
Our personal experiences with the honorable order helps us distinguish between the governor’s appointment and exercising the honor in a meaningful way. So, if you know an active Kentucky Colonel, give them a salute for the amazing work they do.
Pat Day is a Kentucky Colonel and a Hall of Fame thoroughbred jockey. Bill Samuels is a Kentucky Colonel and chairman emeritus of Maker’s Mark Distillery. Sherry Crose is a Kentucky Colonel and executive director of the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels.