The St. Patrick’s Day Society in Wilmington is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month when it holds its annual Sponsors’ Dinner and Communion Breakfast—its biggest fundraisers of the year.
The events have raised more than $1 million during that span. The fundraisers cover about 30 percent of the operating budget of the St. Patrick’s Center, a facility on East 14th Street that provides emergency food, meals and respite for the homeless on Wilmington’s poverty-stricken east side. The center also provides clothing, transportation, and recreational activities for those in need. It serves 150 to 200 people each day.
“The 19801 is the poorest zip code in the state, by far,” says center director Joe Hickey. “It has a more than 40 percent poverty rate and we’re in the heart of it. I always tell people, if you want to help poor people, then contribute to where they are. And that’s here.”
Along with funding from the St. Patrick’s Day Society—with a members list that reads like a who’s who of Delaware—the center relies on contributions from volunteers, churches, and civic, corporate and business groups. The center has 20 volunteers, including some homeless men who unload trucks, serve food, and man the clothes closet. It also has 13 full- or part-time staffers.
During its annual sponsors’ dinner and breakfast events (the March 14 breakfast is open to the public), the St. Patrick’s Day Society hosts more than 700 people.
When asked what the shelter needs most, Hickey is quick to reply. “Food, clothing and money,” he says, “but not necessarily in that order. We are very fortunate to have a place like St. Patrick’s where we come together as a community and help others.”