Friends of late lawyer, Anne Mullaney, fulfilling her Haiti dream


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In the months before she died, Anne Mullaney threw herself into a new charitable endeavor: raising money to build a school in rural Haiti.

In the year since her Good Friday death on April 22, 2011, the friends of Mullaney -- a beloved lawyer and bar owner -- have thrown themselves into completing her last project.

They have already raised the $140,000 to build one school and are now hoping to come up with an additional $150,000 to build another.

"On the day of her wake, that's really when the campaign started," said Ray Werner, a longtime friend of Mullaney. "It was a lot of money to raise in a short time and the reason for that is Anne Mullaney -- we're just messengers."

They are hoping to raise another $20,000 Sunday at a "block party" benefit concert and fundraiser from 5 to 10 p.m. at The Map Room Grill and Bar, 1126 S. Braddock Ave., Regent Square.

The event will feature Haitian food and poetry, performances by Irish musical groups, and sales of Haitian arts and crafts and more fundraising activities. It will also include sales of $5 Haiti building blocks.

Mullaney was a partner with the Thorp, Reed & Armstrong law firm and co-owner of the Harp & Fiddle bar in the Strip District.

After years of devotion to many different causes, she shared with Mr. Werner that she was hoping to get involved with a bigger project. "I want to do something else with my life," she told him. "She loved what she did, but she wanted something more meaningful than just being an attorney," he said.

They brainstormed and decided that Haiti would be a logical place for Mullaney to get involved because of already existing ties to Pittsburgh nonprofit organizations and its relatively close proximity.

She joined the board of Partners in Progress, a Ligonier nonprofit that does work in rural Haiti. The group had already raised money for the first building of a 300- to 400-student elementary school in Deslandes, Haiti.

"I didn't have an identified revenue stream to fund the second and third building," said Rich Gosser, executive director of Partners in Progress. "Anne immediately recognized the need and opportunity for her considerable network of friends and business associates to raise money. In her own inimitable way, she poured herself into organizing people to get on board and build this school."

The school project is part of a larger vision by Partners in Progress to promote sustainable development in Deslandes. The school is using "earth block" bricks, made mostly from dirt and sand, to build the school.

The bricks are more earthquake and hurricane resistant than traditional cement and also keep the building cooler. About 40 men in the town have been trained in making the bricks and building with them, and Partners in Progress hopes to start encouraging home building projects.

"Anne began to get the bigger vision," said Mr. Gosser. "It's not just about building the school."

Sunday's fundraiser will include performances from musical acts Guaranteed Irish, Mike Gallagher, the Newlanders, Mark Dignam and the Cyclones. Pittsburgh glass mosaic artist Daviea Davis will also auction off a commissioned piece.

Organizers are also looking for other people willing to hold fundraising block parties.

For the friends of Mullaney who are involved with the project, it has provided an opportunity not just to raise money for a good cause, but also to celebrate her memory.

"She did so much for other people," said Mr. Werner. "We've gotten to know each other better. All her life, she was making new friends, and the great irony is she's still making new friends through this. It's amazing what one person can do."

lifestyle

Anya Sostek: asostek@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1308.


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