WILMINGTON — Michael J. Hare has given his time and talent to a laundry list of charities, schools and other organizations for many years. The executive vice president of local real estate acquisition and development company Buccini/Pollin Group said that reflects a character flaw as much as anything.
“It’s the inability to say no,” Hare said recently from the ninth floor at BPG’s headquarters in downtown Wilmington.
For his commitment to the community and various organizations, Catholic Charities will honor Hare with the Msgr. Thomas J. Reese Award at its annual banquet on April 1 at the Chase Center on the Riverfront. The location is a bit ironic, since Hare was an instrumental part of the Riverfront Development Corp.
Hare is honored, but he wanted to make sure it wasn’t some sort of April Fool’s Day joke. After all, he checked the list of previous honorees and isn’t sure he belongs with them, some of whom he knows.
“I think that’s what makes it awkward because so many of those previous recipients I consider giants in this community. Many I’ve known for 40, 50 years because I went to school with their kids or I’ve seen what they’ve done. I’m very humbled to be counted in their company,” Hare said.
“No one does this to get acknowledged with an award. It’s for their love of the organization or the community. I’m very humbled to be added to that roster of recipients.”
The roots of Hare’s community service lie not too far from his downtown office. He grew up and still lives near St. Elizabeth Parish, where his parents, Joan and John, instilled in him and his brother an affection for the city.
They provided for their sons a Catholic education that started at Ursuline Academy and continued at St. Edmond’s and Archmere academies. Hare, 58, continued his education at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. All of his schools “had their own particular charism that emphasized service, to try to make an impact on others. I’ve never been married, and I don’t have children, so I have a little bit more freedom to invest time in the organizations that I care about. The recognition is nice. It’s very humbling. Being involved in the organizations that I am, I’m a witness to people doing extraordinary things every day that impact people’s lives.”
The list of organizations that have benefited from Hare’s generosity is impressive. He is or has been a board member at St. Edmond’s and Archmere. He serves on Bishop Malooly’s pastoral council and on the Vocations Admissions Board. He has been president of the St. Elizabeth parish council and is a founder and chair of the annual Feast of St. Elizabeth Celebration. He is co-chair of the St. Patrick’s Day Society, and he is on the boards of the Latin American Community Center, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware, Salvation Army Delaware, and Delaware Technical and Community College. He also was once a Wilmington City Council member.
Two, however, are very personal. His work with St. Edmond’s and Archmere has very much been influenced by his experiences at both schools.
“St. Edmond’s, being on the board there was a very powerful experience for me and for our family. They were very much involved. I loved my experience there. And to the extent that I have anything to offer and give back, I’m pleased that I can. I’m proud to be a board member there. The same is true at Archmere. That’s basically way of thanking those schools that had such a powerful impact on my life,” he said.
His parents wanted him to get an education that would provide a good living. What they couldn’t envision, he continued, was that their son would be good friends with his teachers and others 40 or 50 years later.
One of his other passions has been the St. Patrick’s Day Society, which raises money for the St. Patrick’s Center. The center does a lot of work with people in need on Wilmington’s east side. During his time with the society, it has raised more than $3 million to support the center. This time of year is, naturally, a busy one.
The society has a parade, Mass and breakfast each year in Wilmington. It’s a way to celebrate the faith and experience of Irish people.
“So many people came to America out of desperation,” he said. “I think it’s wholly appropriate that we help people who are in need today.”
The society also administers the Father James Trainor Scholarships, which are distributed annually to graduates of Catholic elementary schools in the city of Wilmington for high school tuition. Hare said Father Trainor, who died in 2004, was instrumental in revitalizing St. Patrick’s and St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception parishes when he was their pastor.
Just as the Irish were looking for an opportunity for a new life in the mid-1800s, Hare sees the same thing among Latino immigrants today through his work at the LACC. He was a member of the Boys & Girls Club as a youngster, as was his father. Delaware Technical and Community College is putting Delawareans to work.
“I know it looks kind of gaudy, the number of organizations with which I’m involved, but they all are very important to me,” he said.
He does all of this in addition to his work at Buccini-Pollin, one of the biggest developers in Delaware. Hare said the atmosphere there is “pretty intense,” but the company is committed to the community. His bosses at BPG, Rob and Chris Buccini, understand his commitments and are very supportive.
Hare has been with the company since 2008. He worked for the state of Delaware in the Delaware Development Office, and in 1996, then Gov. Tom Carper appointed him to the Riverfront Development Corp. board of directors. He became deputy director of the RDC that same year under the current mayor of Wilmington, Mike Purzycki. He left for BPG to lead the project to develop a soccer stadium in Chester, Pa.
The Wilmington native has never left the city, and he lives in the same house in which he grew up. His mother, who is 90, lives with him, and Hare is thrilled she is able to experience the Msgr. Reese Award with him.
“My mom’s example is so very important to who my brother and I are,” he said.
Hare was a sophomore at Archmere when his father died at age 48. He was the one who insisted on Ursuline, St. Edmond’s and Archmere for Hare and his brother, Patrick, and that didn’t change after his death.
“The mission wasn’t over when my dad was gone. His dreams did not die with him,” Hare said.
The Msgr. Reese Award is a bit personal for him, as he knew the late priest a bit when he was a youngster. He and his friends often attended 5 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter on Sundays, after their CYO games were complete. Hare became aware of Msgr. Reese’s activities aside from being a parish priest.
“To receive an award that bears his name is quite an honor,” he said.
Hare, who received a life-saving kidney transplant a few years ago and has “been in God’s waiting room a couple of times,” insists this award does not mark the end of his public service.
“This is not a swan song. I don’t interpret it as you’ve run the race. There’s plenty to do. This is a very extraordinary acknowledgment at this moment in time, but there’s more to do.”