David O'Sullivan, Director of the Community Soup Kitchen of New Haven, and Chris Vigilante of Christopher Martins Pub meet at the kitchen to plan the fundraiser commemorating An Gorta Mór.

By Maria DelGreco

The Community Soup Kitchen of New Haven is holding a month-long fundraiser beginning September 1st at Christ Episcopal Church in New Haven, CT.

The fundraiser will involve many of the New Haven area’s Irish pubs, clubs and restaurants and will benefit the Community Soup Kitchen.

The kitchen’s long-time director, David O’Sullivan, came up with the idea while reading an article about the famine in the Irish Emigrant. He continued to read famine author Neil Hogan’s book, “The Cry of the Famishing” and said that the theme of the fundraiser is “The Great Irish Famine is in the past but hunger is still with us.”

“The more I learned about the Great Irish Famine – An Gorta Mór - of the late 1840s, when over one million died and as many emigrated, the more I was impressed by the compassionate response to the crisis, especially from the people of greater New Haven. I thought we could again tap into that spirit of good will, this time to help hungry people closer to home.”

O’Sullivan brought the concept to accomplished fundraiser Chris Vigilante of Christopher Martins Restaurant. Vigilante suggested that the fundraiser sell ‘soup bowls’ during September which is Hunger Action Month. Customers can buy a colorful artist’s drawing of a bowl for $5, the cost of a meal at the kitchen, and then sign the bowl that’s posted in the restaurant. He also suggested that bowls be sold at Irish as well as non-Irish restaurants across New Haven. The former would use the An Gorta Mór theme while the latter would participate under the Hunger Action Month umbrella. Vigilante has said that his pub would be using the An Gorta Mór theme even though it is not particularly Irish because his “dad would have wanted that."

His father taught Irish history at State University of New York, Nassau and his mother’s side came from County Mayo, Ireland.

Beginning September 1st, bowls can be purchased at Anna Liffey’s Pub, Archie Moore’s, Café Romeo, Cave à Vin, Christopher Martins Restaurant, Contois Tavern, Devil’s Gear Bike Shop, Duffy’s Tavern, Eli’s on Whitney, Geronimo’s, Higher One, Irish American Community Center, JP Dempsey’s, Kelly’s Bar of New Haven, Knights of St. Patrick, Madi & Mia’s, Mickey’s Restaurant, Modern Apizza, Olde School Saloon, O’Toole’s Pub, Portofino’s Restaurant, St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, Temple Grill, Tommy Sullivan’s Café and Woodbridge Gathering.

Christopher Martin’s will also be hosting a fundraiser Friday, September 7th from 5:00 pm to closing featuring Blue Moon special pricing of 16 Ounce Pints for $3.00 and the band “Crash21” at 9:00 pm. Donation is $5 with all proceeds to benefit Community Soup Kitchen.

“The idea has caught on,” said O’Sullivan. “When we ask a place to take 50 bowls, they say ‘I’ll take 100,’ proof that the generosity that existed during the Great Famine is still with us today.”
O’Sullivan said that the timing of the new fundraiser is critical. Last year the Community Soup Kitchen of New Haven served nearly 59,000 meals. In the first 6 months of this year alone the number has climbed to 36,000.

Participating locations are encouraged to do individual events during the month. On September 14th at 5:00 pm, O’Toole’s Pub on Orange St. will host an An Gorta Mór night that includes a famine lecture by Hogan and O’Sullivan, music by All-Ireland accordion champion Damien Connolly & friends, raffle prizes, buffet and drink specials. A $15 donation is suggested as all proceeds benefit Community Soup Kitchen of New Haven.

“The Irish really like the An Gorta Mór theme,” said Dublin-born Colin O’Toole, co-owner of the pub. “With the lecture and the music as a draw, we stand to make a lot of money for the soup kitchen on the 14th.”

For more information, call David O’Sullivan at 203 606-2184, Colin O’Toole at 203 506 5753, Chris Vigilante at 203 982 8200 or Mike McCann at 203 751 2898.