Café in Con­shy church to serve as con­cert hall

PAL-ing around with who’s who

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - LIVING - By M. ENGLISH

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 amhoff­man@gmail.com 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.

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