2021 Hall of the Year

Sacred Heart Society of St. Isidore's Church By Craig Cebelak

Established on May 18, 1896, the Sacred Heart Society of St. Isidore's Church is also known as The Sacred Heart Benevolent Society. But you know it best as Eastern Avenue Hall. This year marks their 125" year in existence.

The society was founded by the trio of Albert Szymanski, John Konieczka and Valentine Wila. John Konieczka's home was the setting for their very first meeting. With Albert Symanski being elected as the first president, the remaining board members consisted of Joseph Paluszak (Vice President), Andrew Ignasiak (Secretary), John Bilski (Financial Sec-retary) and Andrew Urbanski (Treasurer).

Under the guidance of the president, the first constitution of the society was accepted with the main objectives of:

To serve God and country,
To serve and fraternally assist it's members and their families, especially in times of sickness, death or other misfortunes,

And to always foster loyalty and respect for the laws of their new American fatherland.

During the early months of 1907 the society started construction of the current clubhouse on the north-east corner of Eastern Avenue and Harvey Street. The building was constructed under the watchful eye of Polish contractor Anton Majchrzak, at a cost of approximately $9,000.

The club officially opened on November 20, 1907, under the direction of Valantine J. Banaszak, with a lively grand concert and ball. Club board member Joseph Kosmaczewski introduced Rev. W. Metkowski, pastor of St. Isidore's Parish, as Master of Ceremonies. The keynote speaker of the inaugural event was John Lipezinski, one of the original Polish settlers of Grand Rapids, who garnered much attention and enthusiasm from the crowd.

Throughout the years after the society's opening, the club was used by the Polish community for a variety of purposes and events. Some of these includ-led meetings, weddings, receptions, political rallies, theatrical productions, Concerts, and recitals. In the early 1920's, during the construction of the new St. isidore's school, the society donated the use of the upstairs ballroom as Idassroom space. The soclety would also host the end of the school year programs where the students would perform under the leadership of the school sisters.

In May of 1946 and May of 1971, the society had the privilege of hosting both their golden and diamond jubilees. Both events consisted of commemorative books, keynote speakers from the city and the Polish community, dinner, music, and dancing, to celebrate these milestones. Unfortunately, due to a lack of interest from the Board of Directors in 1996, the society did not celebrate their centennial anniversary. Though the society was unable to celebrate their 125th anniversary in May of 2021 due to the world wide pandem-ic, they will be having a grand celebration in May of 2022, with all the frills and activities of previous jubilees.

The 1960's were a time of massive change for the society and their neighbor-hood. Construction of the expressway, which cut the neighborhood in half, caused several families to move out of the close knit neighborhood. This started a chain of events which caused more Polish families to move and Polish businesses to either move or close their doors. The administration of the 1960's and early 1970's saw the writing on the wall and were always concerned about which direction the society would follow.

In 2010, to save the society and the building from ruin, the society made a much needed administration change. Since then, during the past eleven years, the society has put over $500,000 into the revitalization of the club building. Improvements consisted of a new roof, partial remodel of the upstairs ballroom, complete renovation of the exterior, new main floor bathrooms, new coolers on both floors, a new walk-in cooler in the basement, new heating and cooling throughout the entire building, complete remodel of the Eastern Avenue entrance and the staircase leading to the upper level, complete remodel of the office, remodel of the upstairs kitchen, and many, many more improvements.

The current club board, management, building and staff are in great shape. Although the neighborhood and old traditions will never be the same, the society takes great pride in knowing what they've accomplished in the last eleven years. They continue to, and always will, remember their forefathers land the women and children who put their efforts into making the society what it is today.

Today's membership asks that the founders of the society, the members of yesteryear, and all who have helped along the way, never be forgotten. Special recognition is given to certain individuals of the past, including all deceased members and presidents, past presidents such as Albert Szymanski, Marcin Blaszczyk, Franciszek Michalski, Michael Hankiewicz, Jan Rusilowski, Joseph Kubasiak, Richard Andresiak, Eugene Krzeminski, John Krupeclewicz, and Don Serba, who served the society during trying times of the neighborhood and country. Also, a special thank you to Gerald Balczak, Thomas Ja-worowicz, Victor Rozek, Richard Rusilowski, Andrew Galas Sr., Andrew Galas Jr., Edwin Galas, Paul Ptak, Donald Kolenda, Chet Skendzel, Edward Skendzel, and Adam Skendzel for their many contributions to the society. Last, but not least, a special thank you to Eugene "Dyke" Krzeminski, J.P. Watkoski and Robert Cebelak for their historical knowledge of the neighborhood and socie-ty.

As the society approaches their 126 year, they welcome all to Pulaski Days 2021. The society thanks everyone for their patronage to Eastern Avenue Hall. With contributions from all, they will strive to continue the traditions, hopes, and dreams that their forefathers had back in 1896 when they started the Sacred Heart Society of St. Isidore's Church.