The public face of the Lawrence St. Patrick's Day Committee is a happy group of people, who claim some Irish heritage (at least for the day), staging a festive downtown parade on March 17.
The parade starts in South Park and ends at a drinking establishment in North Lawrence and traditionally goes on rain or shine, including a cool and damp event this year.
The other side of the local St. Patrick's Day Committee, however, is the many hours its members devote to raising funds for some worthy local agencies. In the 20 years since the parade's founding, the group has donated $479,000 to local organizations. This year, the Social Service League and the County Fair Swim Club split $44,000 raised through the 5K Shamrock Shuffle, a dart tournament and other events staged in the months before St. Patrick's Day.
This is a purely volunteer effort that is one of the charitable bright spots of Lawrence. The St. Patrick's Day Committee raises a lot of money and has a lot of fun. Over the years, that money has benefited dozens of local agencies. It's especially nice that the group targets many community efforts that may not have the staffing or formal organization to tap into other funding sources.
The money that the St. Patrick's Day group donated to the Social Service League will help pay for new shoes, eyeglasses and eye exams for low-income youngsters in the community. The money that goes to the County Fair Swim Club will help that group make vital repairs to the neighborhood swimming pool it operates at 2117 Maple Lane. Both groups operate on a shoestring, and the money from the St. Patrick's Day parade will be a major boon to their budgets.
The annual St. Patrick's Day parade is a fun event for the community, but what should really have those Irish eyes - and the entire community - smiling is the support the group provides to some very worthy community projects.