A new nonprofit aimed at local Irish expats, Irish Americans and those who love them is forming in New Orleans. Called the Irish Network-New Orleans (IN-NOLA), the group is part of the national Irish Network USA and combines local and national social networking with real live socializing at cultural and philanthropic events throughout the year and across the community. The group held its first even to recruit founding members on Aug. 24 at Finn McCool's Irish Pub in Mid-City, and the main order of business was signing up new members for IN-NOLA. There are different registration levels for businesses ($150), families ($80), individuals ($50) and seniors and college students ($30).
"I think this will appeal to young professional people who are interested in Irish culture and also want to have a good time," says Pauline Patterson, an IN-NOLA board member and Belfast native who runs Finn McCool's with her husband Stephen Patterson. "It's like an adult Irish Facebook, but one where you get to meet in person at these events too."
Members get access to online forums for social and professional networking, and throughout the year IN-NOLA plans to host a mix of public and members-only events. In November, the group will hold a launch party downtown at Gallier Hall. Patterson says programs to come include breakfast meetings with speakers on Irish cultural topics, family events and classes in Irish language, music and dance. Other ideas in the offing include an Irish music festival, an Irish film festival, literary events and cultural exchanges.
"New Orleans is so famous for its food, so one thing we'll hopefully do is send a New Orleans chef to Ireland and host an Irish chef here for a while," Patterson says.
IN-NOLA will also raise money through its members and at public events to support local charitable causes.
"The two things I never get tired of are fundraising and potatoes," says Patterson.