Members of the Lebanese American Country Club presented a $619,000 donation to Catholic Charities of Louisville during a press conference May 9, saying the agency’s work with immigrants reminds them of their heritage.
The funds will support Catholic Charities’ Immigration Legal Services as well as the charities’ campaign to build a new headquarters.
“Our grandparents were immigrants,” said Ackie George, a member of the club, in an interview before the press conference. “They needed help when they came to the United States.”
They couldn’t speak English and some couldn’t read but they got by, she noted. Her grandparents came to this country in the early 1900s, she said.
David Mike, another club member, shared the club’s history at the press conference, held at the agency’s offices on South Fourth Street. Among his listeners was Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre.
Mike said in the 1950s members of the Lebanese and Syrian communities — whose ancestors immigrated to the U.S. 125 years earlier — decided they needed a place to gather. They purchased about five acres of land on River Road where they constructed the Lebanese American Country Club.
George said the club was a simple building made of concrete with a swimming pool. It was a welcoming place where families gathered for weddings, social events and especially for Sunday meals.
“There was nothing fancy in there,” she said. “There was a lot of love in that building. They’d kiss you on both sides of your face and then ask someone, in Arabic, who you were.”
Mike said the bonds formed because of the club are still strong today.
“What our ancestors did for us is create a strong bond. We owe it to our ancestors who gave us that opportunity,” he said.
The club has since closed and the property was sold in 2020. Funds for the donation came from the sale. The bylaws stated that money from the sale of the property should go to charity, said George.
Catholic Charities received $619,000 and St. Michael Orthodox Church also received a donation, they said.
According to Catholic Charities, $250,000 will be used for construction of the new headquarters. One of the classrooms in that building will include a multi-media display about the history of the Lebanese immigrant community. The remainder will go to the agency’s Immigration Legal Services — $269,000 for operating expenses and $100,000 for a permanent endowment to assist clients who are unable to pay legal fees.
The club’s president, Daniel Assef, said current club members allowed their history to guide their decision when choosing beneficiaries.
“Our ancestors would have loved to have some of these programs (offered by Catholic Charities) to assist them when they came here,” said Assef during a phone interview following the press conference.
Lisa DeJaco Crutcher, CEO of Catholic Charities, thanked the club members and told them the agency is proud of the work it does with immigrants.
Archbishop Fabre thanked them as well, saying the funds will enable Catholic Charities to “welcome the immigrant, which is what Jesus would want us to do.”