Poppenhusen holds Feb. 25 fund-raiser

By Joe Anuta

The Poppenhusen Institute has come close to shutting down after its state funding was eliminated a few years ago, but fund-raisers like the one planned for later this month have been keeping the College Point cultural institution afloat ever since.

On Feb. 25, the institute will welcome Morning Star, a band playing authentic Irish tunes and fronted by Mary Courtney, a singer straight from the Emerald Isle.

Courtney and the band, who tour all over the country and always make a point to stop in College Point, have decided to forego their payment for the performance in order to help raise money for the institute, which hosts music and cultural performances, after-school workshops for kids and historical events.

“We have been hard-hit,” said Director Susan Brustmann. “We thought we were going to close last June.”

Tough times actually began for the cultural institution before that, according to Brustmann, when the state Legislature decided to eliminate member items, or discretionary funding, for elected officials to dole out to nonprofits in their districts.

Contributions from former state Sen. Frank Padavan and former state Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn provided more than one-third of the funding to run the institute, at 114-04 14th Road.

After the bottom dropped out of that monetary avenue beginning in 2010, the institute fell on hard times.

But an increase in donors helped to ensure the programming continued. In addition, the institute held a variety of fund-raising events, like a haunted house and Taste of College Point, to generate some additional income.

“Because of all of that, we are still open,” she said. “We are not doing great, but moving in the right direction.”

The fund-raiser later this month will feature what Brustmann calls a “village cafe.”

Seats for about 80 people will be set up at smaller tables and the only light in the room will come from candles at each one.

“It creates a very cozy atmosphere, one that anybody would feel welcome in,” Brustmann said. “Even people that might come alone would walk in and be pulled into the warm, welcoming atmosphere.”

Tickets are $20 before the event and $25 at the door and will cover refreshments that include a small corned beef sandwich, Irish soda bread, desserts and hot and cold beverages.

The performance will run from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and raffles will also be taking place.

Supporting the institute is important for the neighborhood, because College Point is so isolated from the rest of the borough, according to Brustmann.

“We are on a peninsula, so there really is no other community culture center,” she said. “And we are not just a museum of the past. We are a living museum that serves people today.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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