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Fred Astaire

Fred Astaire danced for Kentucky

Thousands were left homeless; countless businesses were destroyed and on and on went the devastation of the great flood of 1937.

The flood hit much of the mid-west and competition for the limited assistance of the day was strong. Kentucky though had an ace up its sleeve. A young organization, less than six years old, put out a call to its members scattered across the country. Those members responded in such a fashion that “the money rolled in” according to one account. In Hollywood, Colonel Fred Astaire organized a fund-raising show as did Colonel Eddie Cantor and Colonel Irving Mills*.

So began, in 1937, the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels Good Works Program. Kentucky Colonels worldwide are still giving. During the war year, Kentucky Colonels “adopted” Fort Knox. 35 recreation rooms were set up and staffed by Colonels. In the ’50s the Good Works Program was formally recognized by the IRS as a tax deductible 501 c 3 charity. Four grants were issued in 1951 with a total of just over $6,000 distributed. In 1992, the amount voluntarily contributed for these grants passed the one million dollar per year level. It is now at the 1.5 million per year level.

A complete listing of grants awarded for the current year may be viewed in this section of the web site. Just click on Grants.

(*) Irving Mills is best known for “discovering” many of the top musicians of his day. Among those discoveries was Duke Ellington. In the spring of 1925, Mills heard the Duke and his orchestra play at the Kentucky Club in New York City. The next day, he signed Duke Ellington and His Kentucky Club Orchestra to a contract.

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