Extreme generosity: Sandy Muller (center) holds a check for $188,702 along with the Rev. Edward Kearns and staff from St. Dominic Church and School. The money will subsidize recently completed renovations to the Marian Hall parish center. PHOTO: BRAD LARRISON
One of Northeast Philadelphia’s oldest Catholic churches collected a major gift from a member of the local business community last week that has already changed the public face of the parish.
The Rev. Edward Kearns, pastor of St. Dominic’s Church, accepted a $188,702 check from Sandy Muller, owner and president of Muller Inc., last Thursday that will subsidize recently completed renovations to the Marian Hall parish center.
Marian Hall is a 400-seat catering hall that also serves the parish as a stage performance venue and youth basketball arena. It is vital to balancing the parish’s finances, according to the pastor. It will also help the parish to raise additional money to underwrite planned renovations to the church facade and steeple, a project that will cost close to $300,000.
“We’re thrilled that Mrs. Muller did this for us. It’s a shot in the arm and shows that St. Dominic’s is important in the area,” Kearns said.
The parish is 167 years old and hall perhaps 50 years old, the pastor said. The renovations included new flooring, windows, lighting, stage lights and stage sound. Two bathrooms were remodeled. The walls were repainted and the angled wooden ceiling resurfaced.
Fantozzi Custom Construction was the general contractor. Universal Kitchen Inc., Avalon Carpet & Tile, Keystone Floor Products and ABC Supply worked on the project, along with the parish maintenance staff under Joe Yannelli, who managed the project.
Although Muller is not a member of the parish, she learned of the need for the hall renovations through her support of a dance program there. Five years ago, she said, the former principal of the parish grade school, Sister Shaun Thomas of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, appeared on a local television news broadcast to report the loss of funding for the dance program. Muller decided to support the program through her business’ charitable arm, the Muller Foundation.
The hall renovations will allow the dance program to stage better shows, she said. It will also help the school in its efforts to grow enrollment and remain viable.
“I think we need schools like this to stay open,” Muller said. “When parents decide to bring children to a school, this is what they look for, curriculum, positive attitude and facilities.”
Joining Kearns, Muller and Yannelli at a ceremonial check presentation were Judy Sweeney, the assistant superintendent of the Office of Catholic Education; St. Dominic’s School Principal Kathleen Bruce; Jen Anusky and Fran McCann, the parish business managers; and Muller’s assistant, Helen Fasoline. The community is welcome to celebrate the renovations at a reception on Sunday, Oct. 30, following the 11:30 a.m. Mass. ••