They call it the “Senior Luncheon,” but organizer Sean McMenamin thinks they need to come up with a more dynamic moniker to characterize the monthly lunches at The Irish Center in Mt. Airy.
And anyone who has attended one of these social gatherings would agree that there is nothing “senior” about the energy and camaraderie that fill the room.
Co-sponsored by The Irish Immigration Center of Philadelphia and The Commodore Barry Irish Center, and subsidized by the Irish government, the lunches take place at noon one Monday each month, and there is no cost to attend. There are also volunteers who coordinate a transportation schedule for those who want to attend, but don’t have a way of getting there.
The Immigration Center has held weekly luncheons for seniors for years at their home in Upper Darby, but Sean reached out to Siobhan Lyons, the Center’s Executive Director, to arrange an additional lunch at The Irish Center. “We started about 4 years ago, with 36 people attending the first one, and now that it’s been established, we get a regular crowd of about 100 people coming,” Sean explained.
So popular has the luncheon become, that in addition to the newsletters from the Immigration Center, there are also informal pipelines in place to make sure everyone knows the date of the upcoming lunch. Mary Cannon, of Hatboro, has a regular group of 10-18 people she brings with her. She calls her friends after she confirms the date with Leslie Alcock, the Director of Community Programs at the Immigration Center, and they get there about an hour early to make sure they can get their two tables. “I’ve been coming since they started the lunches. It’s really marvelous. They do a great job, the food is marvelous and I get to have lunch with all my friends,” she said.
Mary Jane Rogers and her husband Ted (a former president of the Mayo Society), are also devoted attendees. “We come pretty much every month. It’s a wonderful thing. I don’t know how they do it—and they don’t charge. There is always an abundance of good food. And they do a 50/50 raffle every month, with different prizes.” They usually share a table with their friends from the Irish Community: Betty and Tom Broderick, Arline and Wayne McKeever, Mike Lyons and Jim McDonald.
Talk to anyone at the luncheon, and the reaction is the unanimously the same: It’s a great time. Tom Staunton, who was among those who were at the very first event at The Irish Center, the Mayo Ball in November of 1958, expressed it this way, “It’s a social gathering. You get together with people you don’t see all the time, people you’ve known for a long time in a nice setting.”
Chickie Harvey (real first name Helen), is another regular. “I’ve been coming here for years. My husband Charles was a manager here for 2 years about 25-30 years ago, before he got sick. Now I come to these luncheons, and it’s a real good time. I’ve met a lot of nice people.”
Because the luncheons aren’t just for folks who have been lifetime members of the Irish Center; among the group that Mary Cannon brings with her are friends who were initially unfamiliar with the Mt. Airy home to the Irish community. But once they started to attend the luncheons, they’ve been coming back ever since. “It’s a welcoming place,” one of them said. “I just enjoy everything about it.”
For more information on which Monday of the month the luncheon will be held, or for assistance with transportation, contact Leslie Alcock at The Irish Immigration Center of Philadelphia at 610-789-6355.
And take a look at the fun that goes on there: