Spreading their charitable wings

Toll Man Joe’s is hosting a veterans benefit this weekend,
with proceeds benefiting three local organizations

By Lindsey Nolen

Although Memorial Day is just a few weeks away, Toll Man Joe’s, 24 E. Oregon Ave., has organized a veterans benefit on Sunday, May 7 from 2 to 8 p.m. Yet, rather than reflecting on servicemen who lost their lives, this initiative will help veterans who are homeless, along with sending proceeds to the Police Survivor’s Fund and the Fire Widow’s Fund.

At the event, boasting the tagline, “a good time for a good cause,” Toll Man Joe’s will offer draft beer and boxed wine. Additionally, a variety of finger foods, roast beef and pasta, all made in-house, will be available.

Accompanying the food and drinks, live music will be non-stop and include numerous genres and performances by Audra McLaughlin, Shorty Long and the Jersey Horns, Mike Le Compt Trio, Wildflower Horn Band, South 47 Country, Loose Leaf Band, David Stone, Quixote Project, Tuesday Night Project, Mia Johnson Duo, Quaker City String Band, South Philly String Band, Woodland String Band, 2nd Street Irish Society and Pipe and Drum.

Tom Penrose, who co-owns the sports bar along with his wife, Laurie, set out around the New Year to find a charity they could fundraise for and support. However, after receiving backlash on Facebook during the November election for providing catering services to both Democratic and Republican parties, the owners decided they wanted to find a non-profit organization that had no political affiliation.

“We found that the election cycle was polarizing that when catering to either the Democrats or Republicans, the opposite side would feel strongly against it,” Tom Penrose said. “So, when we were looking to get behind a charity right after Christmas, we knew we wanted to find something that let us give back to the community and create a more positive outcome.”

In searching for organizations, he first went through all previous donations the restaurant had given out. Through this, Penrose, an Army veteran who served from 1984 to 1987, realized that his restaurant had donated Thanksgiving dinner last year to the Philadelphia Veterans Comfort House.

“We wanted to find a veterans organization anyway since I’m a vet, but we also realized that there are a few homeless veterans who live behind the property on Interstate 95, so the Comfort House was a natural fit,” Penrose, 51, said. “I met with William Champion, the treasurer of the organization’s board of directors, and they do fabulous work, and we thought this was something good we could really get behind.”

The mission of the Comfort House is to provide homeless veterans a chance to start over, and become productive members of society. The organization provides homeless veterans with shelter and meals, and helps them to connect with the Department of Veterans Affairs to find other agencies that can help them obtain their benefits and more long-term assistance.

After Penrose committed to helping the Philadelphia Veterans Comfort House and to organize this benefit, he decided to expand the charity to support the Police Survivor’s Fund and the Fire Widow’s Fund as well, seeing as many of these public servants are veterans as well.

“This makes it more inclusive and lets people acknowledge veteran service and sacrifice,” Penrose said. “I want the community to focus and convert its energy and attention on something positive. Ultimately the proceeds will be split 2:1:1, with the majority going to the Comfort House.”

Knowing all the positive that could come from attending Toll Man Joe’s veterans benefit, and how the $30 ticket can help veterans or widows in need, Penrose hopes that approximately 300 to 400 people will come to the event. Regardless of whether these numbers hold true, he plans to make the benefit an annual event in the years to come, creating a positive outcome and spreading awareness.

“Who’s against helping homeless veterans? I don’t think anybody,” he said.

Tickets are $30, and include draft beer, box wine, finger foods, roast beef and pasta.

They can be purchased online at tollmanjoes.com/buy-tickets or at the door.