Café in Conshy church to serve as concert hall
PAL-ing around with who’s who
THE NUMBERS do not lie, when it comes to substantiating the success of the annual Norristown Police Athletic League fundraiser that took place at Plymouth Country Club last week.
It was the 14th year that the community – in fact, much of Montgomery County – came out to celebrate the great work that has been done by PAL at the renovated armory on Harding Boulevard in Norristown.
A total of 24 restaurants and food purveyors put their best foot forward, displaying incredible recipes that sent attendees into gastronomic delight. That included two new restaurants: P.F. Chang from the Plymouth Meeting Mall and Banh Mi Bar and Bistro of Norristown. From the old standards: the ravioli from Scaramuzzo’s, the roast pork from Sessano’s, the desserts from Redstone American Grill and the array of tomato pie and veggie pizzas from Corropolese Bakery received personal raves.
More than 1,000 people paid $50 for the opportunity to taste all of the delights and mingle with those in attendance. That always leads to an evening of quick conversations – ones that last anywhere from 15 seconds to a couple of minutes.
IF EVERYONE in attendance spent the time exchanging business cards, they would all go home with pockets bulging – instead of stomachs bursting. But that would be counter-productive to the atmosphere of such a festive evening.
Instead, time was best spent making quick connections … and storing away info for future follow-ups. Here is a quick rehash of my personal miniconversations during the evening:
As always, Jim Serratore manned the gate – distributing will-call envelopes and directing attendees to the folks in charge of attaching the wristbands that pave the way to the gourmet delights.
Now that summer is over and the Mermaid Lake pool is closed, Bill Berardelli found the time to slap the wristbands on the wrists of the guests. And it gave him time to say hello to just about everyone in attendance.
Telephone and communications whiz Jimmy Davis – buzzing through the crowd like a hyperactive bee, and adding to his upcoming fall golf schedule. Then whizzing back to his alternate office in Margate.
Dale Hood – taking a break from his country-wide softball tournament schedule … and talking about plans for a special Evening with Tony Bello, a testimonial event in the works for the longtime proprietor of the Jem Restaurant at Westover CC on October 22.
Helene Pitts – always smiling and bringing a positive spin to local activities … renewing her commitment to the Montgomery County Coaches Hall of Fame banquet at Westover CC on November 25.
Paul Salvo – taking time away from his waterproofing business … and his ever-increasing rounds of golf at Blue Bell CC. Talk about picking up a latein-life addiction.
Skippack’s Pat Gambone admitting that it was her first visit to the PAL event … and marveling at all of the incredible food.
Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman – enjoying the fun side of her law-enforcement duties in the county.
Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor – knocking on wood as he proclaims that his troublesome back, which greatly hampered his skillful golf game, is now 100 percent. Currently, it is just a heavy workload that gets in the way of golf.
Pat Mosesso – reveling in her relatively new role as a member of the Americans of Italian Heritage Council
Jillian’s Café has given “going to church” brand new meaning.
Yes, there’s a house of worship involved — specifically Conshohocken United Methodist Church at 20 W. Sixth Ave. in Conshohocken. But the four-month-old gathering spot adjacent to CUMC’s sanctuary is part coffee house, part rec center … actually, a whole bunch of different things. Come Sept. 19, the latter will include its transformation into concert hall for an appearance by musician George Dennehy, who was born without arms but plays four instruments with his feet.
According to local organizers, Dennehy’s back story is as “amazing” as his music. In short, the Romanian native was adopted by an American family at the age of 1, began playing the cello when he was 8 and eventually learned to play guitar, electric bass and piano. Two years ago, Dennehy posted a video of himself playing the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” on the web. When the Goo Goo Dolls saw it, they invited him to perform with them at 2013’s Bethlehem Musikfest.
“We are so pleased to be able to host this event,” says CUMC member Pat Patterson. “We learned about George after our youth group attended a conference in Maryland earlier in the year. They came back and shared their impressions and inspired us to get George to our café.”
Jillian’s Café was established last spring in memory of Pat and husband Dave Patterson’s 28-year-old daughter. Jillian Patterson, born with Down Syndrome, died two years ago after a blood clot in her leg became lodged in her lungs. Following her death, her parents and a whole raft of fellow congregants and friends converted part of CUMC’s Wesley Hall to Jillian’s Café, intending to make the area an inviting space for the community as well as church members.
The effort was a labor of love from start to finish, and that sentiment is clear in everything about the sunny yellow café — down to its green and pink accents (Jillian’s favorite col- ors), the ceramic backsplash decorated with samples of Jillian’s artwork at Wynnewood Center for Creative Works, the Jillian’s Café sign that recreates her distinctive signature and
the cappuccino machine that concocts her favorite drink.
The venture’s success is just as obvious. During the few months it’s been open, Jillian’s Café has attracted hundreds — from the 300plus who attended its open house in May to the numerous area residents who’ve shown up for this summer’s ongoing programs.
“We had two very successful open mic nights featuring local talents — the Savants, Mere Fate, Sara Shope, Ray Branagh, Jim Fazio, Stephen Ramer and Phil Jamison,” Dave Patterson says. “In July, we had a night of ballroom dancing under the instruction of Alex Fangoulis of Arthur Murray Dance Studios. Participants also got to screen the awardwinning documentary on wheelchair dancing — “Dancing Outside the Box” by David Block. Ray Leight, the wheelchair dancer featured in the documentary, joined us for the event.”
Her parents are sure their gregarious daughter would have been pleased by “all of it.”
“We’re thrilled with the success of Jillian’s Café so far and know Jillian would have loved coming here,” Pat Patterson says. “We were overwhelmed by the turnout at the open house on May 31. Jillian’s birthday was May 1. She would have turned 30 this year, so we were so happy that the open house took place in May and so many friends and family were on hand to celebrate with us.”
CUMC’s youth group introduced the Pattersons to Dennehy, and plans for his Sept. 19 concert have been in the works since the café’s debut.
“We are thrilled to host George Dennehy as our first featured artist on Sept. 19,” Pat Patterson says. “George is a new, young artist who has a great message and a terrific talent to share. We are so excited to have him perform at Jillian’s Café.”
Upcoming events planned for the venue include:
— Sept. 27: oldies dance party featuring D.J. Dale Sherry
— Oct. 11: concert by all-girl group Blue Lenex, opened by The Guayalas and Alyssa Garcia
— Oct. 25: folk night with Eddy Mann, Bethlehem and Sad Patrick
For tickets to Sept. 19’s George Dennehy concert, email Anna Hoffman at firstname.lastname@example.org or call CUMC at 610-828-1250. Order forms can also be downloaded at www.cumc. us or on Facebook at Jillian’s Café.
A poster advertises George Dennehy’s Sept. 19 concert at Jillian’s Cafe.