Too close not to comfort

Given their stellar status as melodious merrymakers on New Year’s Day, one might not be fully aware of the projects and endeavors that members of Mummers clubs see as a necessity for community growth. On Saturday, constituents from 38 of the revered revelers’ entities convened at the headquarters of Bill McIntyre’s Shooting Stars, 1931–33 S. Third St., to further their altruistic fervor, collecting and delivering wish list items to The Philadelphia Veterans Comfort House.

“We, as Mummers, are all one huge family,” organizer Billy Mulligan said shortly after the 8 a.m. start at the Pennsport location. “We recognize what has made this country strong, too, and there’s no denying how important the defenders of our freedom have been in building us up.”

The Grays Ferry inhabitant has called himself a Shooting Star since 1992 and has enjoyed considerable success with the fancy brigade, most recently its 2014 parade victory for “Atlantis Guardians of the Deep.” Smiles have often given way to frowns, though, as the 53-year-old often ponders the plight of service figures, leading him to consult with brigade contemporaries about honoring their sacrifices.

“We did in-house events for vets the last two years, but this time, I felt it would be much more touching to involve the Mummers as a whole,” Mulligan said as peers piled goods into a U-Haul truck. “The response was amazing, and we’re here today to remind them that we’ll always respect their roles in keeping us safe.”

The overseer has added adulation for such personnel through his father’s participation in the Korean War. Fully aware that life beyond their uniformed days can present severe struggles for veterans, he wanted this year’s outreach to be especially endearing. Enter The Philadelphia Veterans Comfort House.

The West Philadelphia-situated haven recently lost its United States Department of Veteran Affairs grant funding and needed to halt its housing activities. An accompanying release for the Shooting Stars-led effort noted the facility is “reopening its doors in a new transition phase that will allow a bright future for homeless veterans, who have served our great nation, by providing a place for their families to once again call home” and tabbed the strutters as the initiators for the revitalization.

“Reopening the Comfort House will take an all-hands-on-deck approach to complete the renovations, raise the funds, and provide the programs our heroes need to get off the streets and into a safe place,” newly minted president Dana Spain, also the founder of the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society, which has a Spay/Neuter and Wellness Clinic at 2900 Grays Ferry Ave., said of her employer’s mission. “The Mummers Associations involved are generously providing the kickoff we need.”

ED BRYSON HAS always loved lending his time and resources to the strengthening of the Pennsport environs, and, as a member of a family that has committed 160 years to the growth through involvement at the Edward O’Malley Athletic Association, 144 Moore St., he saw Saturday as a rewarding opportunity to show that life as a Mummer consists of more than planning holiday routines.

“It’s a joy to give back to those who fought for our freedom,” the resident of the 300 block of McKean Street said, with his eponymous brigade accountable for seven boxes of items, including canned goods, cereal, detergent, shampoo, and soap. “There is just so much to be thankful for when you consider what veterans have done for us as a nation, so, at this time of year, there should really be a huge effort everywhere to show that appreciation.”

As the morning unfolded, hearing conversations among the generous parties made evident the camaraderie that the clubs have no matter their classification as wench, fancy, fancy brigade, comic, or string band performers. For Mulligan, the Shooting Stars offer him a “magical” opportunity to promote family, love, and Mummery, and he is always eager to meet new faces and create lasting memories.

“I started marching with the comics when I was 10,” he said in giving a nod to his affinity for levity. “Over the years, I’ve had some wonderful experiences, and I think everything is just going to keep becoming better with respect to non-parade activities. Today is a perfect day, and we’re eager to get this stuff to where it will do so much good.”

With respect to Mulligan’s enthusiasm for novelty, representatives from the Purple Magic New Year’s Brigade, 38 E. Jackson St., gladly turned out to help the cause.

“It’s very rewarding to help those who might have started to feel forgotten,” Haydar Kiran said of what compelled him, wife Valerie, and son Lucas to be benefactors. “They have to feel appreciated, and you know that when the Mummers are involved, everyone is going to feel happier because they care so much.”

The Maple Shade, N.J. inhabitant and his outfit, with roots in the Magic New Year’s Brigade, will make its debut in next year’s parade and have been building up for that excitement by engaging in numerous community-centric causes, including a holiday toy drive. Through The Ronald McDonald House and various neighborhood organizations, Shooting Stars will hold a similar call for goodies Sunday at 3 p.m. The latter and The Philadelphia Veterans Comfort House have also aligned themselves with Toll Man Joe’s, 26 E. Oregon Ave., which is providing a Thanksgiving feast to 150 veterans.

“It really touches your heart year after year to see how much people care no matter the task at hand,” Mulligan said shortly before the trek to deliver the accumulated bounty. “It’s all in the name of helping our fellow citizens, and that, I’m going to say more so than performing, is what being a mummer is truly all about.” SPR

Thirty-eight Mummers clubs contributed to the benevolent bounty.

Photo by Tina Garceau

Saturday’s gathering at the headquarters for Bill McIntyre’s Shooting Stars proved a reaffirmation of locals’ respect for veterans.

Photo by Tina Garceau