Spreadin’ o’ the Green on St. Paddy’s Day

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by Kay Helbling

On St. Patrick’s Day my husband and I decided to join in the festivities at one of Portland’s institutions, the North 45 Pub. We’ve not a drop of Irish blood between us but that wasn’t holding us back from a good time. I don’t know that the owners, Josh Johnston and Jim Hall do either, but what the heck, it’s a great excuse to bring in a crowd.

I was expecting the usual—beers lifted and a room buzzing with voices—and the not so usual—bag pipes playing as the Corned Beef & Cabbage and Shepherd’s Pie are served up for happy hour snacks. What I didn’t expect was the “bouncer” at the door. The orange and black jacket of an OSU rugby man, collecting a cover charge for a worthy cause.

For the establishment’s owners, the night isn’t just an opportunity to bring in business and make a fast buck. It’s an opportunity to “pay it forward”. They choose a not-for-profit organization to support every St. Paddy’s Day. With the first five bucks you spend at the door, you know the night is not just about you. Sure it’s about having a great time. But, it’s also about tipping a few to the many who may need a bit of Irish luck to get them through these tough times.

This year’s recipient of their donation is the OSU Foundation. With our Universities now dipping into their reserve funds to meet students’ costs, alumni like Johnston are stepping up to fill some of the gaps. Leaving the halls of Oregon State with a degree in one hand and All American honors as scrumhalf for the Universities rugby team in the other, Johnston understands the importance of hard work and opportunity. “The hard work is up to them. Giving them the opportunity to succeed is up to all of us.”

The OSU rugby team & coach were there to donate their time as bouncers to help their school’s Foundation. “We love meeting and talking with folks about rugby, and thanking them for spreading the green.” With patrons like these, and small business owners like those at the North 45 Pub, I think we’ll be able to come out of this “economic potato famine” just fine. We might even get a smile back in those old Irish eyes.  

Kay was an insurance adjuster and executive for 15 years, a small business owner and a teacher for 10. But, her most fulfilling work has been as a mother of her two boys. She is now looking forward to an empty nest with her best friend—her husband.