The 29th annual Flax Trust New York banquet took place in the 21 Club on October 9, honoring Edward A. McDermott Jr., president and CEO of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research; Niall J. Murray, managing principal and founder of Rockabill Consulting & Development; and Patricia Harty, cofounder and editor-in-chief of Irish America magazine. The honorees were each presented with a Bog Oak award, featuring a silver Flax flower representing the charity’s emblem. The banquet co-chairs John Kelly, managing partner at Hanover Stone Partners and Tom O’Brien, director and audit chair of Prudential Financial Annuity Funds, paid tribute and toasted the work of the Flax Trust – in particular, of director and founding member Sister Mary Turley. Using the slogan, “Enrichment through respect for difference,” The Flax Trust was formed in Belfast in 1977, during the height of the conflict referred to as the Troubles, which saw violence and destruction across the North, but particularly in Belfast.
In the over 40 years since its founding, the Trust has lived up to its mission statement. From literally starting with nothing, in its first year it transformed the former Brookfield linen mill from a state of dereliction into a 232,000 sq. ft. business center accommodating over 70 small businesses, and over the years it’s become a business incubator for all of Belfast, creating over 400 businesses, and provided training and personal development for several hundred people each year through the Brookfield Business School. In 1982, Flax Trust America was set up, with support from Mutual of America’s powerbrokers Bill Flynn, Tom Moran, and Ed Kenney, all of whom played a part in the peace process. Over the years, contributions from Flax Trust America have helped develop such programs as an international arts center – theatre, art gallery, dance studio, and the Pittsburgh Bar & Steelers’ Restaurant; initiated a community association and health and social programs, which have served thousands of Meals on Wheels in addition to day-care center meals; built a medical center housing Ardoyne Community Healthcare Centre, Ardoyne / Shankill Healthy Living Centre, medical and dental surgeries, and an elderly day care center; built a shopping center including a supermarket, post office, pharmacy, fancy goods store, florist, community-based organizations, café, offices and workshops providing services, and much, much more.
This past year, a housing development program of £20,000,000 was negotiated for the people of Ardoyne and Old Park, North Belfast, and the Flax Trust Arts presented the musical Oliver during Community Week, staged in a unique “Big Top” setting comprising people from the North and Greater Belfast areas. ♦