PORTSMOUTH — Main Street Portsmouth is inviting the community to the 12th Annual Paul E Johnson Soiree, hosted by the Selby 100 Mile House and Donna Wolery, alongside organizing partner and founder Kevin W Johnson.
The event is the largest fundraiser the Main Street Beautification Committee has each year, filling the gaps in city and private donor funding, which allows them to care for downtown parks, public spaces, and many beautification efforts from hanging baskets to flower urns, as well as maintenance efforts including grass cutting and watering contracts.
The soiree, prior to the pandemic, was typically in September, to commemorate the life of Portsmouth native and MSP founding board member Paul E Johnson, but recently switched to summery months. One thing that doesn’t change, however, is the fact that a friend of Kevin’s always hosts as a way to show appreciation. This year, they are returning to the Selby 100 Mile House for a repeat event.
“Wow. I am ever so blessed with old and new friends who have volunteered to host these events at their home or business. In the initial years, I hosted this event at my previous home on 24th Street. Then friends began volunteering to host,” Partner of Paul, Kevin W. Johnson said. “I am forever grateful for the efforts these friends have made and continue to make.”
Kevin served the MSP program with Paul as inaugural board members, shaping what would become the Main Street program today.
Johnson recounted the early days, “We raised money to repave the 4th Street East and 7th Street parking lots. Paul felt that downtown Portsmouth should be considered Scioto County’s living room; it needed beautifying. When he passed away on March 20, 2009, I contributed a modestly sizable check in his name to create the PJ fund, and we went from there. I wanted Paul to be remembered for his belief in MSP’s charter and future.”
Kevin said that, if Paul were alive to see progress made in the past decade, he would simply be thinking, “how can I raise more money?” This is what drives him to continue this fundraising effort for Sue and other Main Street volunteers.
He explained that Paul would see the magic created by MSP President and Beautification Chairwoman Sue Burke, along with her many dedicated volunteers, and want to further give them tools to do their work.
“These events, including this year’s An Evening on the River, are always emotional for me in that Paul is being remembered for his love of and his efforts to improve our city by many who did and didn’t know him,” Johnson said. “It is also important for those who attend that their donations are utilized by Main Street Portsmouth to beautify our downtown with plants, flowers and much more. Finally, it is always a reminder of how much time has gone by since Paul passed away in March of 2009.”
Sue Burke oversees a small army of dedicated volunteers, alongside MSP board member and right-hand woman Suzette Rhea. The program keeps an eye on Alexandria Point, the Esplanade, Market Square, and Tracy Park—where they plant flowers, mulch beds, and decorate seasonally. They pay for regular lawn maintenance on Alexandria, the Esplanade, and city parking lots.
The group recently developed its first piece of property, 535 Second Street, which preserved the standing façade of a collapsed building and turned it into a luxurious pocket park. They recently received grant funding to expand the riverfront park, with a free public gym expansion for people to enjoy. They also raised funds to build a new playground for the riverfront, as well.
“I simply cannot imagine Portsmouth without Main Street Portsmouth,” Kevin said. “So much of the light and beauty and energy and commitment and volunteerism and progress in and around downtown Portsmouth would simply not exist.”
The group is always working on maintaining what has been built and planning for a future of even more development and placemaking.
“It is always impressive to see what Main Street Volunteers and Sue Burke accomplish,” Executive Director Joseph Pratt said. “Most people who see their work immediately look up to these volunteers for doing so much for us to all enjoy. The other side of that coin is the Paul Johnson Soiree and Fund, because of the effort and time donated by Kevin Johnson and hosts each year. I am very excited for guests to enjoy this event together.”
The event will welcome any community member who would like to spend a wonderful afternoon with refreshments and hors d’oeuvres. There will also be a silent auction with some incredible goods to bid on.
All are invited to celebrate Paul, Main Street, and the downtown renaissance being partially done thanks to volunteers and programs funded by this event.
Suggested donations are $30 per person for entry. Guests are welcome to give as much as they feel comfortable and also consider the silent auction. The event will be held May 22 at the Selby 100 Mile House and Gardens, between 3 and 6 p.m.
Online tickets can be found at www.eventbrite.com/e/the-12h-annual-paul-e-johnson-memorial-soiree-tickets-331881615847
For more questions, call Joseph at 740.464.4501.