MARCH 12, 2016
I am pleased to have the opportunity to provide the annual report to the membership of The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of the general condition of the Society under the new administration led by President, Joseph P. Heenan, that has now been operating for just nine months.
On June 17, 2015, a Special Meeting was held at the Springfield Country Club for the election of new officers. Joseph P. Heenan was elected President, Kevin J. Maginnis, Esq. was elected Vice President, and Russell W. Wylie was elected Secretary. John C. Heenan remained in his office as Treasurer of the Society. The Special Meeting was followed by a General Meeting which was presided over by newly elected President Heenan who opened the Quarterly General Meeting by greeting the members present
and emphasizing a renewed focus on liberty and charity for the Society. The new president proposed a bylaw amendment which would “open the Society up to a more inclusive environment by not excluding women into the Society as full members.”
The next Quarterly General Meeting was held on September 17, 2015 at the Great American Pub in Conshohocken, PA. The decision to allow female membership was endorsed by an overwhelming majority of 90% of the members voting on this bylaw change at the meeting. This marked a landmark change in the bylaws of the second oldest Irish American fraternal organization in the nation, which has traditionally allowed only male members at its continuous meetings in Philadelphia since it began on March 17, 1771.
The initial work of the new administration addressed basic operational issues including establishing a new Society mailing address, arranging for timely and efficient processing and distribution of mail, updating the current membership contact database, and establishing new depository procedures for funds received by the Society. A new system of logging in members at the General Meeting using newly issued electronic cards was instituted in September 2015 thereby establishing their attendance at the meeting and automatically registering their names on an electronic spreadsheet. President Heenan promoted a shift away from the traditional dinner at quarterly meetings (with the exception of the Gala Dinner) to be replaced with light refreshments funded by member donations and/or a sponsor thereby enabling these meetings to become revenue positive events.
The fundraising which began in late August of last year resulted in donations totaling approximately $70,000 with a participation of 131 individuals and organizations. The FSSP endowed scholarship fund that will be described by Villanova University representatives at the Gala Dinner tonight was funded by a $100,000 donation to Villanova University by the Society. This fund was made possible with the $23,000 from the Stephen P. Stanton Memorial Fund and the $77,000 balance from the General Fund (the majority of which was generated by the above described fundraising efforts of the new administration). The name of the fund will be “The Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick - Endowed Fund for Experiential Education in Ireland, in memory of Stephen P. Stanton”. This merging of the memorial fund with the fund at Villanova University would still allow friends of Stephen Stanton to contribute in his memory and earmark the donation for the Villanova scholarship. In addition, there is another scholarship fund at St. Joseph’s University that was endowed by the Society that has been actively providing students with scholarships to study in Ireland for the past 15 years. These endowed scholarship funds represents a three-way win for the Friendly Sons, the two universities, and the students that receive the grants.
Improvements to the FSSP website are bringing timely news of Society events and articles on the history of the Friendly Sons to the membership. Visitors to the website can find a range of specific information concerning Society including a copy of the Bylaws, a listing of new members slated to be admitted at the next Quarterly General Meeting, and the names of all individuals and organization who have provided their financial support to the Society to continue its charitable work. Email blasts have been regularly sent to the membership with updated information about events, fundraising, and benevolent donations made by the Society.
A census of the current members was undertaken under the direction of President Heenan. The old membership list, which had not been updated in many years, reflected a total of just less than 1,000 members. This list was reviewed and distilled to a more accurate current list of members totaling 430. A total of about 100 new members have been added in recent years with another 60 members added during the last year resulting in a current total of about 640 members.
The three key components of a vital Society that have been targeted by President Heenan are: Membership, Fundraising, and Benevolence. The committee structure has been streamlined to help the Society to operate more effectively. Three key committees led by motivated Chairpersons are the Membership Committee, the Fundraising Committee, and the newly combined Benevolence Scholarship Committee. The two additional committees are the Auditing Committee and the Dinner Committee.
There are many new members that have been and are in the process of joining the Society. The first women members will join the Friendly Sons at this evening’s Gala Dinner when H.E. Anne Anderson, Irish Ambassador to the United States, will be inducted as the First Female Adopted Member of the Society. There are a total of 22 new women members (including Ambassador Anderson) that will be joining the Society this evening and it is expected there will be many more woman members in the future. In addition, a total of 17 new men members with be joining the Society this evening for an impressive total being inducted this evening of 39 new members. It is with great pride and a sense of accomplishment for the new administration led by President Heenan that I can report a projected net profit from the 2016 Gala Dinner of over $20,000. This impressive achievement follows many years in which the Annual St. Patrick’s Day Dinner had consistently generated a net loss.
I am honored to be a part of the new administration with its renewed focus on liberty and charity to be successfully achieving the many positive advancements to improve and enhance the ability of The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick to effectively continue and broaden the benevolent work it has been doing in the Philadelphia region for centuries.