From the first, the Rhode Island Irish Famine Memorial Committee recognized the vital importance of the financial contributions of individual donors to the ultimate success of this ambitious project.
It was estimated that we would have to raise one million dollars in order to bring our Memorial project from conception to dedication.
Altogether, in fact, we raised $500,000.00 in tax-deductible donations and received an additional $500,000.00 in in-kind contributions from construction companies, labor unions and other benefactors.
Accordingly, when we selected Mr. Robert Shure as the sculptor to execute our commission in October, 1998, we asked him to devise a mechanism whereby we could both raise the necessary money to complete the Monument while giving the donors of those funds a permanent presence at the Memorial site.
As with the other elements in his design, the "Sculpture Group" and the "Historical Narrative Wall", Mr. Shure achieved this third complex objective brilliantly. He incorporated three distinct levels of "Tiered Giving" into his design concept from the outset.
Ordinary people of fairly modest financial means were invited to purchase Donor Bricks, for $150.00 each, on which they could have inscribed three lines of text of their own choosing. Many senior citizens on fixed incomes chose to honor parents, grand-parents or even great-grand-parents that had survived Ireland's Great Famine or had some other connection with "the old sod."
Potential Donors with more money at their disposal were offered an opportunity to buy Granite Flagstones on which they could have four lines of text inscribed. Initially, these Flagstones were sold for $1,000.00 each but in recent years, to cover labor costs and to augment our Memorial Maintenance Endowment Fund, their price has been raised to $1,500.00 per stone.
Finally, a number of solid, Granite Benches were placed at various locations around the Memorial site. On those useful and decorative structures, Rhode Island's various Irish organizations were invited to identify themselves and their participation in the project for posterity.
Taken together, the Benches, Flagstones and Bricks have combined to make the Rhode Island Irish Famine Memorial site a reflective, restful and deeply moving place. There individuals have come to remember their Famine ancestors and Irish community groups have gathered to celebrate their heritage and culture.
Thus it has been, from the very beginning, that small Donors joined with people of means, without distinction, to remember the victims and survivors of Ireland's Great Famine and to celebrate the achievements of the descendants of those survivors here in America. All these Donors have thus become a permanent part of the Rhode Island Irish Famine Memorial.
Through their selfless generosity future generations of visitors to our Memorial site will continue to learn about and to reflect upon the trials, tribulations and triumphs of our Irish and Irish-American ancestors.
What a worthwhile legacy to leave for those who are to come after us!