Praise the Youth and they will flourish!

 “Mol an Óige agus tiocfaidh sí” — The early weeks of each New Year at the Center are the ones which have been historically quiet after normally busy Christmas and New Years celebrations in the community. That trend is now changing for the better. Covid restrictions ensured there was little happening publicly last year, but behind the scenes the Board and the nascent 2025 committee was busy orchestrating what will eventually be a major gift to Bay Area Irish American community, by way of a new Irish Center. We held our first exploratory review meeting of the existing UICC facility on a cold Wednesday evening on January 27, 2021. Now 12 months after that watershed meeting, we are looking to the future with great optimism as we finalize the building plans for the SF Planning Department.

Activating the Building — The Center was absolutely bustling with activity during the past month, with most of the energy devoted to the major elements of our mission as a nonprofit organization. We exist to celebrate and promote the rich culture and heritage of the collective local, regional, and national culture of Ireland for future generations to enjoy and conserve.
We opened the doors of the St. Francis Room to our very first museum quality exhibition, The Keepers of the Steps, which traces the history of Irish Dance in the San Francisco Bay Area over the past 150 years through documented stories from Irish dancers, costumes, photographs, newspaper articles, books, cultural treasures, artifacts, and ephemera.

While we now have five Irish step dance schools in the building teaching students during the week, we hosted the Kennelly Memorial Feis mid-month with over 200 step dancers taking to the stage, some of them for the first time, to ensure the continuation of the tradition for years to come.

Irish Arts for Kids — What was really inspiring this month was the launch of the Irish music, drama, and singing classes for the younger members of our community. Thanks to grant support from the Irish government through the Emigrant Support Program (ESP), and the generous support of those who donated to our 2021 Annual Appeal, we have 40 kids signed up to participate in banjo, fiddle, bodhr n, keyboards, singing, tin whistle, Irish drums, piping, and drama classes.

Several people reached out in person and online to thank the Cultural Committee for their efforts to get this much needed Youth program off the ground. The response from the community has been very favorable and can best be summed up by a parent who wrote “My daughter is enjoying the classes … they have become a highlight of her weekend.”

Praise the Youth — That’s what we want to do here at the Center, to provide a space where kids can be kids and experience all that their Irish heritage has to offer them, whether it is though the medium of music, drama, singing, or language, or through financial support with education scholarships.

The Irish Center is going well now and will be in a much larger facility in a few short years, playing a pivotal role in developing and encouraging the next generation of Irish American community leaders. The kids in your midst today will be the leaders and stewards of future Irish Center Boards; officers in local nonprofit Irish groups, clubs, and sporting teams. We hope for new Irish bands, because many of those experiencing Irish music for the first time at the Center this spring will continue to play.

As a young child growing up in Ireland we hadn’t much, but I was surrounded by loving parents and grandparents who never stopped praising and encouraging my siblings and me in almost every pursuit of our youth, be it education, music, or sports. We all eventually found our way in life and settled into our own niches. As a parent now, it’s more important than ever to be a guiding hand for our kids; giving them gentle pushes and prompts in the right direction along the path of life. Allowing your child the chance to get involved in the youth heritage programs at the Irish Center, as my grandfather would say “….is no load.” Keeping the kids busy going forward takes effort of course, but a solid investment in not only their own futures but your own!

Thanks to all the teachers who have been gracious with their time provided to the youth programming. They include: Eamonn Flynn, Darcy Noonan, Kenny Sommerville, Cormac Gannon, Michael Dillon, Kathleen Smith, Alex Lentz, and John Carlin.
The hope is to one day have our own “Youth C il  Band” at the Center in time for the opening of the new building. With your continued help and support we will continue to foster cultural awareness through education, arts and social events.
Keepers Success — Hats off to Anne Cassidy Carew and the Keepers of the Steps committee for producing a museum quality exhibition on the history of Irish dance in the Bay Area showcased during January. The exhibition gave visitors a snapshot of the types of artifacts and untold stories that are out there in the community, waiting to be archived and curated. Gratitude to all those who loaned materials for use in the exhibition and donated materials to the UICC’s permanent library and museum collections use. Grand Marshal Dinner — The United Irish Societies will host its annual Dinner at the Center on Friday Feb 25th honoring Grand Marshal Jim Byrne and Honorary Grand Marshals Pat Ahern, James Masterson, Marie Doherty, Margaret Kearns, and Charlotte Shultz. No host cocktails at 6pm followed by dinner at 7pm.

Leo T. Walsh Scholarship — Applications for our annual scholarship program open this month for 8th Graders and High School Seniors entering the next level of their education. Completed applications are due on March 17th.

Amateur Boxing Returns — The UICC is teaming up with Fire in the Ring Boxing to showcase a night of amateur boxing at the Center on Saturday March 26th.

Deceased Members Mass — We honor the memory of past UICC members at the Annual Deceased members mass on Sunday Feb 6th at St. Gabriel’s Church at 2559-40th Ave.

St. Patrick’s Season — The Board is preparing for what is expected to be one of the busiest St. Patrick’s Day seasons in many years, with a robust schedule of events being prepared. More on that next month; until then, stay safe!

Liam Reidy, President