My Dear Irish Community,

We continue to live through a time of great societal uncertainty and who knows what tomorrow may bring. But right now there is a glimmer of hope for members and supporters of the Irish Center, as we slowly reopen after the coronavirus hiatus. Countless hours have been spent by board members and staff collaborating and developing creative ways to reopen the Center. It has taken a tremendous amount of human energy over the last three months to get us here and I am delighted to see the fruits of our efforts come good as we held a “soft opening” for casual dining and drinks over the weekend of June 18th. We are back and gathering once again on 45th Ave.

For 45 years the Irish Center has been a place for people to gather. Gather during a time of loss, gather for a wedding celebration or gathering for a birthday dinner. Down through the years, the S.F. Pipers have gathered for their weekly practice and the Comhaltas have gathered for their dancing. The Irish language students gathered so they could stay connected to their Irish roots. Researchers, historians and those curious would gather in our library and find the information they were looking for and more. Organizations like the IIPC held their masses and luncheons for the ARC, while the AOH, UIS, and ILHS held their meetings planning and discussing the past and the present. If only the walls could talk, we would hear whispers about the ways things were and the struggles that were endured and overcome by the people that gathered at the tables and the bar stools. The walls not only hold the sounds of lilt and laughter but ephemera of days gone by here in San Francisco and Ireland.

Yes, the Center could write its own story, talking about the perils of its people who came over with a bag in hand. We already have the book on the history of the Center published which details the story of how a 20,000 square foot building was erected and the first 25 years of its existence. What could be written about the chapter we are in now?

2020 started out with great hope for our cultural and community center. Since 2019 we had many transitions on the board and people were starting to roll up their sleeves and settle into their roles. In anticipation of a strong March we had a full line up of various activities. Our kitchens were cleaned, organized and sorted so that our new list of caterers could utilize the space. Lights were being put in where there was darkness. At City Hall, the Flag raising occurred on March 6th and the excitement began to build for the Saint Patrick’s day festivities. AND then we were told to shut it down and given no timeline for reopening.

Over 90 days the same questions were asked: How long would we be closed? How long would the Center not be able to have people gather? What was next for the Center? How would we get through a pandemic?

Our mission is to bring people together. The current board of directors is tasked with supporting our history while thinking outside of the box. Thank God for John Ring and Tom McKeon who created the Saint Patrick’s Appeal. Thank you to all those who have given graciously. Thank God for Mark and Molly Burke who were the mastermind of the Wawona Gates outdoor Beer Garden and Irish Shoppe. Our hope is that these enterprises will help to support our operational costs, while planning our cultural comeback.

When I was a little girl, we would spend 10 weeks in Ireland on my grandparents farm. My Aunt and Uncle had a bar in Boyle, Roscommon. It was the first place that I had seen Guinness. I remember watching my uncle pour a perfect pint of Guinness, not rushing it and allowing it to settle before served. In that bar and many bars around the country, it acted as a shoppe as well. The Irish Center now has the Shoppe with crisps – three different
types of cheese and onion flavored. Do a taste test and let us know what your favorite is. Stop by the Wawona Gates and get a taste of Guinness, raise a glass- Sláinte…Health!.

Please join us for a social distance gathering this summer at the Center, order from the Irish Shoppe, volunteer when you can, and support the Saint Patrick’s Appeal. The Center is nothing without its community.

Stay safe
Anne Cassidy Carew, President of the UICC