The Commodore John Barry Arts and Cultural Center—otherwise known as the Irish Center—will hold its summer fundraiser at Tip O’Leary’s in Havertown on Sunday, July 11. This will be the Irish Center’s first big live event since COVID restrictions have been lifted. After a year that put financial strains on many, this fundraiser is vitally important for the Irish Center, located in the Mount Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia.
“This time every year, we do a fundraiser,” says Lisa Maloney, vice president of the Irish Center board. “It’s for regular operating expenses and for maintaining the building. We work within a very limited budget.”
Last year, everything was shut down so an in-person event was out of the question. Instead, they sent out an appeal letter asking people for donations so that the Irish Center could make it through the year.
“We got donations ranging from $5 to $2,500, Maloney explains. “Every five- and 10-dollar donation we got, we used very wisely. People gave whatever they could and that showed me the depth of what the Irish Center means to everybody.”
The upcoming in-person fundraiser will feature a raffle, live music, food, and a cash bar. The prizes being raffled off include jewelry, wine baskets, tea baskets and relaxation baskets. There is also a special raffle this time around. “One of our board members donated their shore house in North Wildwood so the winner of the special raffle will be able to use the shore house for a week,” says Maloney.
There is also going to be a game, and the winner will receive a bunch of gift cards.
“We have a giant map of Ireland and we’re going to sell little stickers with numbers on them, she says. “People can buy the stickers and then place the sticker somewhere on the map. Sean McMenamin (board president) and I will select a small town in Ireland before the event and whoever’s sticker is closest to that small town will win the gift cards.”
Over the past year, several improvements have been made to the Irish Center. “We have painted, refinished floors, and put down new carpeting,” Maloney says. “We did a whole electrical upgrade so there’s Wi-Fi in the ballroom now. And we’re also in the process of renovating the library. We have a lot of volunteers. Teenagers come in and volunteer in the library. We’re really trying to make sure the next generation has some skin in the game. There were a number of businesses and local unions that donated labor and materials because we’re working on a shoestring budget, but there’s a lot you can do when people answer the call.”
Because of that shoestring budget, fundraisers like the summer event are crucial to keeping the Irish Center running. “Every year this event raises between $10,000 and the largest we ever made, $14,000,” she says. “Hopefully we can raise between $10,000 and $15,000 this year. Every penny we get goes right back into the Irish Center. It really does help us maintain our operations.”
With life beginning to return to normal after the pandemic, the Irish Center is starting to resume its regular live events beyond the summer fundraiser.
“On the first Fridays of every month, the musicians are back,” Maloney says. “So people are welcome to come and have a meal and listen to the musicians. We don’t have any concerts scheduled yet, but they are coming soon. We’re waiting to see when musicians from Ireland can start traveling themselves, but they are anxious to get back and perform at the Irish Center. As soon as they are allowed and ready to travel we will get them booked. And on September 19, there will be an open house at the Irish Center. If people are away during the summer and haven’t seen the Irish Center, they can come and wander around. There will be a lot of displays and things for kids and parents. We will have our wonderful book collection with books from the 1800s and people can see our renovated library.”
For these upcoming events, stay tuned to the Irish Center’s website and Facebook page.And on July 11 from 4 to 7 p.m., come out to Tip O’Leary’s, 300 West Chester Pike, in Havertown, for a fun afternoon of food, music and much more. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased online at the Irish Center’s website or at the door.