Spirit of Generosity: The Connelly Sisters

Amy Burns

In late 1989, three sisters – Josephine Mandeville, Emily Riley, and Christine Connelly – heeded the urging of their aunt, Sister M. Henrietta Connelly, RSM, to get to know two inspiring young women: a “feisty” nun and a recent MBA graduate, who were working with persons experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia. When they visited Sister Mary Scullion and Joan Dawson McConnon (at this time, it was Joan Dawson), they brought with them a box of Christmas chocolates and a check for $100,000.It was the start of a beautiful friendship.

Joan and Sister Mary were deeply touched,grateful, and excited by such an unexpected gift. They had already spent years getting to know many men and women who were living on the streets. While they had provided entry-level residences for many of them, they knew from their dialogue with the men and women that what was needed to truly overcome homelessness was permanent housing and supportive services. The vision of Project HOME was born –and that first check from the Connelly Foundation was the catalyst for turning the vision into reality.

The Connelly Foundation has developed significantly since its founding in 1955 by John F. Connelly, CEO of Crown Cork & Seal Company, Inc. (today Crown Holdings), and his wife Josephine. It continues to strategically target funding in the community, always seeking to foster learning and improve the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia area. Project HOME, too, has changed since Josephine, Emily, and Christine first visited with Sister Mary and Joan.

Since 1989, Project HOME has helped thousands of people find housing, job opportunities, medical care, and education. Emily, now the Foundation’s Executive Vice President and also a Project HOME Trustee, has said that that $100,000 grant was one of the Foundation’s best investments.This initial gift has been leveraged many times over.

In 2010, Project HOME opened a vibrant new Center City residence, in partnership with Bethesda Project and with support from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and public and private funders. The name for the new residence: Connelly House,in memory of John and Josephine Connelly.

A quarter century after that initial investment, the Connelly Foundation continues to be an invaluable partner. As we celebrate our 25th anniversary this year, the Foundation has invested in our next step in the journey to end homelessness in Philadelphia: the Stephen Klein Wellness Center.

The partnership between the Connelly Foundation and Project HOME is an outstanding example of what can happen when dedication to a common cause meets strategic thinking. This decades-long relationship allows for not just increased impact, but exponential impact – all toward the goal of ending homelessness in Philadelphia.

None of us are home until all of us are home®