Born without arms, George Dennehy plays with his feet, and sings with his soul.
Trust me. Whatever you have planned for Friday evening, Sept. 19, chances are, this will be much better. It’s a very special concert, performed by a very special musician in a very special place. Conshohocken UMC will welcome phenomenal, popular singer and musician George Dennehy to perform at its own Jillian’s Café, a comfortable performance venue, adjacent to the church’s sanctuary, that’s as bright and beautiful as the person for whom it is named.
George Dennehy, born without arms, is an amazing young man who sings while playing the guitar and piano with his feet. Yes, take a moment and reread that last sentence. I’ll wait…. The only sound perhaps more beautiful than his voice and his deft, soulful instrumental touch is his personal story.
It’s an inspiring testimony he has shared on television and Web sites, in concerts and news publications. Learn more about him and his message to the world–a message of faith and infinite possibilities–on his Web site, where you can also hear his music.
The venue for this sure-to-delight concert is ideal not only because of its acoustical attributes but also because, like George, its namesake overcame her own congenital challenges and became a grace-filled inspiration to many. Jillian Hope Patterson was a remarkable young woman with Down Syndrome but also with two remarkable parents and some extraordinary friends. Employed and also active in many pursuits as an artist, athlete and actress, she was a vital member of the special needs community, and she reportedly touched many lives through her joy, sensitivity and kindness.
With Conshohocken UMC’s blessing and eager assistance, Jillian’s parents, Pat and Dave Patterson, turned a bland, empty, underused but sizeable room next to the sanctuary into a place of celebration brimming with music, dance, art, conversation and yes, coffee, which Jillian loved to drink.
The cafe is surrounded by bright yellow and green walls and adorned with stained glass windows, a funky coffee bar covered with art by Jillian and her peers, and colorful paper-like lanterns. And watching from a corner wall over the friendly staff and volunteers and their audiences is an ink portrait of a smiling Jillian, a constant spectator to the festivities there.
The right place to be
Pat and Dave received donations and plenty of help to create this living, loving memorial to their daughter, who passed away in August 2012. The idea came to them after they worshipped at the church one Sunday during their search for a new church home. When they heard the Rev. Ricky Ayala preach and teach, and were warmly welcomed by church members, they knew this was the right place to be. They invited Ayala to come visit their home nearby and have fellowship. When he did the conversation turned to Jillian and her love of coffee. The idea for a cafe in her memory at the church seemed to occur to them and to Ayala almost simultaneously. The church’s lay members soon got on-board with the idea and then got to work helping the Pattersons make it happen.
Since the May 31 inaugural open house that welcomed over 300 visitors, Jillian’s has hosted several open mic concerts where talented local musicians entertain, a ballroom dance class and other special events. Pat and Dave and their helpers promote the events to the community using newspaper coverage, online social media (visit their Facebook page), artistic sidewalk signs, word of mouth, a mailing list of more than 500 people, and vigorous networking.
“People say they come because, ‘You guys are so involved,'” said Dave. “We’re trying hard to create something new for the church and the community and to help it grow.”
While fundraising is their big need, the duo is always thinking of how to spread the word and gain new supporters for this excellent venue and communal experience that has been, from the start, a labor of love for them and their many partners.
‘We have to get him here somehow.’
It was actually youth from the church who saw George Dennehy perform at an event in Ocean City and showed the congregation a YouTube video of him when giving their report on the event. “I told Patty, ‘We have to get him here somehow.'” recalled Dave.
George Dennehy’s concert happens Friday, Sept. 19, at 7:30 pm. Jillian’s Cafe is in Wesley Hall on the bottom level of the church, at 20 West 6th Avenue in Conshohocken. Telephone: 610.828.1250.
Doors open at 6:30. Do come, and don’t be late. You don’t want to miss even a moment of his musical artistry and his mesmerizing testimony. You’ll be glad you came. And you can be sure that Pat and Dave, “Pastor Ricky” and the other members of Conshohocken UMC will welcome you with open arms and open hearts.
By John Coleman, EPA Conference Communications Director