Gene Binder never needs a reason to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.
But this year will indeed be a special one for the Nesquehoning man and Jim Thorpe native, who has been selected by the Panther Valley Irish-American Association to receive the coveted Shamrock Award at the 65th Annual St. Patrick's Day Dinner on Saturday, March 17.
The event will once again be held at The Grand Ballroom of Kelly's Irish Pub and Restaurant, Lansford, where Binder, a longtime Catholic Youth Organization basketball coach, will be named "Irishman of the Year" in the Panther Valley. The event will open with a social from 5:30-6:30, followed by the dinner and program.
Former Speaker of the Pa. House of Representatives, Keith R. McCall, will be the toastmaster. Binder will receive the Shamrock Award from Timothy Hoben, PVIAA president.
"As a member of the Recipient Committee, I was elated when Gene's nomination resulted in a unanimous vote," Hoben said. "As one of his many friends, I know of his many accomplishments and contributions. He has been involved in community and civic organizations for decades.
"For those individuals on which he has a great impact, they know him well. In regard to Gene's character, what could be said? He gives his time, talents and treasures unselfishly to those that are in need, and for that he should be thanked by all of us."
Hoben explained that Binder is extremely dedicated to serving the community and has spent much of his time coaching youth athletics, starting in the Jim Thorpe Knee Hi Football program, where he coached for many years.
He started coaching basketball at Immaculate Conception School, Jim Thorpe, in the early 1980s as an assistant coach.
When Our Lady of the Valley girls' basketball program in Lansford needed a coach in 1985, Binder began his long tenure coaching girls' basketball. Currently, he's the head coach at the St. Joseph Regional Academy, Jim Thorpe.
At OLOV, he also coached volleyball and track. He was one of the original coaches for the Little Fillies AAU Girls Basketball program and continues coaching travel basketball teams.
Binder is proud to be acknowledged for his Irish heritage and citizenship.
"Looking at the list of past recipients, I am humbled to be included as a member of this group," he said. "A common thread weaves through them pride in our heritage, unwavering faith, love of family and friends, along with a desire to help others. It is very satisfying to be recognized by my friends as being worthy of this award."
A son of the late Eugene and Kathleen Binder of Jim Thorpe, he is a graduate of Jim Thorpe Area High School, where he was a member of the 1971-72 Olympians' basketball team that was inducted into the Jim Thorpe Sports Hall of Fame.
He received a bachelor of science degree from Penn State University, after which time he worked as a correctional officer and subsequently became the work release director at the Carbon County Prison.
When Raphael Musto won a special election becoming the U.S. Representative for the 11th Congressional District, Binder was the administrative assistant in his Hazleton District Office. He later worked for state Rep. Thomas J. McCall in his Lansford office.
Binder started his insurance career with American General Life in 1982. A few years later, he established the Binder Insurance Agency. While an independent agent, he worked for over a year as the chief deputy for Carbon County Controller John Williams.
He is currently the owner of the Binder Insurance Agency, Nesquehoning, a local life and health agency specializing in coverage for Medicare beneficiaries. Over his career, he has received several awards for sales excellence.
He is one of six children, his siblings including Jimmy, Michael, Dennis, Kevin and Kathy.
A member of the Alec Campbell, Mauch Chunk Division, Ancient Order of Hibernians for many years, he has helped that organization in its sponsorship of the annual St. Patty's Day parade in Jim Thorpe since its inception in 1998. In 2010, Binder was named by the AOH to serve as an Aide to the Grand Marshal (Emmett P. McCall).
Binder's grandmothers, Eunice Dever and Lucille Cadden, were of Irish decent and he noted that his parents were extremely proud of their Irish heritage.
"I am proud to be Irish, proud of my faith, my family and friends, and so lucky to be living in a country where I can be Irish and worship as I wish," he stated.
He has also assisted with organizing other parades locally, including the Lansford Pumpkin Parade, the Carbon County Veterans Day Parade in Lansford, and as a member of the Summit Hill Memorial Day Parade Committee.
Binder is a member of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Jim Thorpe, where he serves as an usher, and is a charter member of the Summit Hill Lions Club, where he is very active in the club's charitable work, including being a co-chairman of the Golf Committee which holds an annual tournament, the primary fundraiser for the club.
He also serves as co-chairman of the annual silent auction which is held during the Marian High School Spring Dinner Gala. Over the years, the auctions have raised over $70,000 for the school.
Binder is a member of the board of directors for the Thomas J. McCall Memorial Foundation, which holds an annual golf tournament in honor of the late state Rep. Thomas J. McCall and issues scholarships to local high school graduates with its proceeds.
He resides at 7 Seventh Ave., with his fiancee, Karen Sabol, and her son, Matthew, and Gene's stepdaughter, Amanda Miller, and her son, Connor.
Entertainment for the evening will be provided by the father-and-son folk duo of Pat and Shane McGeehan. Tickets to the dinner can be obtained from the following association members: Summit Hill, Bob Crampsie and Billy O'Gurek; Lansford, Emmett McCall; Coaldale, Robert Ames and Hoben; and Tamaqua, Tom McCarroll and Tracy.