A Time to be Thankful and Reinvestment for the Center

As we approach the end of another calendar year – we tend to look back and wonder where did the time go? November is the season for giving thanks for everything that we’re grateful for; all that sustains, nourishes, and supports us.

The Thanksgiving celebration book ends the month and brings us homes decorated with warm autumnal accents and hearty food, but also offers an opportunity to spend time with the people who make our lives special. We primarily celebrate with family but more broadly I think it’s a good time for the Irish American community to celebrate having a vibrant year round Irish Center.

I say this because I had a call from Seamus Balfe (a fellow Limerick man) a couple of weeks ago. Seamus lives in East Durham, a small hamlet in Greene County, New York – about 2 hours north of NYC. Seamus lamented the fact that although the Irish Center in the village is open from May through October- it is closed for the winter. There is a very small population (600 people) in the vicinity of the East Durham center and it is not viable to stay open during the winter season. During the year the Center relies on the groundswell of support and weekend getaway crowds from the NYC metropolitan area. Highlight attractions include the Irish Music Festival over Memorial weekend and the Irish Arts Week in the Catskills during July.
Compare that situation to our own here in San Francisco and you realize how fortunate we are to have access to our building 52 weeks of the year! Of course there are days when the Center is relatively quiet but between now and the end of the year we are at full capacity with a wide range of cultural and community events that draws many different people from the surrounding community to the Center.

Ongoing Education
I am always learning from conversations with people involved with other Irish Centers across America. I was fortunate to attend meetings in Kansas and New York this year on behalf of the Center. The knowledge shared at these meetings with other participants have come back home here to San Francisco and applied locally where appropriate. It’s a constant labor of love for many volunteers and a major challenge facing Executive Directors of cultural institutions to keep the Irish American community engaged in Irish arts, music and sports (hurling and Gaelic football predominantly). There are so many local distractions (and online) for entertainment and event options for our community. It’s hard to compete sometimes with professional sports teams, and top of the chart musical talent that regularly perform in the Bay Area – never mind all the local school and college events that people are drawn to attend on the weekends.

Recent Challenges
The UICC has faced its own set of challenges in recent years and we have come back stronger after a major investment of time and energy from the Board and community members to put a shoulder to the wheel when it became apparent that we may lose our Center. Now as we prepare for a much brighter and ambitious future Irish Center we are developing organizational structures to be more sustainable in the future even with unforeseen setbacks.

A Sustainable Future
The Board established an Endowment in late 2021, and brought onboard a professional financial consultant – James Sheffield, UBS Financial Services to actively manage the fund. This is part of a long term sustainability strategy being developed at the Center by the finance team. We recently moved to bolster our investment account which will put the Center on a firm financial foundation going forward which will to ensure we can support our ongoing costs and provide support to our community even in tough times.

Your chance to support
While many of you are supporting the 2025 Project capital campaign – UICC members will also get the opportunity to contribute towards the Center’s cultural programming, endowment, library and Leo T Walsh scholarship program between now and the end of the year through our end of year fundraisers and appeals.

Annual Appeal 2022
Later this month UICC member households will receive an Annual Appeal letter requesting support to maintain and expand our investments in our cultural programming footprint. Donations to the Appeal last year afforded the Board to increase the budget for kids music classes (provided free of charge) and provide support for the Irish summer camp. Sixty kids between the ages of 6-14 participated in the annual summer camp which ran for three weeks last June. Investing in the next generation of our community is a recurring theme at the Center. Last May our educational scholarship program (Leo T Walsh Fund) disbursed over $40,000 to students graduating elementary and high schools moving onto the next phase of their education. Some of these students will be the supporters of the UICC down the road and maybe even stewards of the institution in time.

Library and Scholar ship Fundraiser
A team of volunteers from the Patrick J Dowling library recently sent a letter and raffle tickets to UICC members seeking support for the Leo T Walsh scholarship and Library Fund for 2023.

Derek Warfield
The Young Wolfe Tones led by balladeer Derek Warfield return to the Center for two shows on Saturday November 12th and Sunday November 13th. Always a great evening of entertainment. Don’t miss him and his talented band!

Thank you to all those who send a personal note of thanks for all that we are doing to keep the Irish Center flag flying high here in the city for all our supporters. We look forward to your generous support this season.

Teresa McDonagh RIP
We were all sad to hear we lost an amazing supporter in Teresa McDonagh last month. Teresa was ever present at everything that was going on at the Center for decades. I will miss her words of encouragement and her hearty laugh. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis.

Happy Thanksgiving
Happy Thanksgiving to all our members and supporters throughout the community.

Liam Reidy