Tag Archives: New York Irish Center

Second Irish Day of Action helps rebuild Rockaways

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Toy Factory Elves

As Paul Finnegan puts it, volunteering is not one separate group helping out another, but one part of a community helping out a different part of the same one.

This was the idea at the second Irish Day of Action in the Rockaways on Saturday, December 15 as volunteers from different Irish culture groups bused down to the peninsula to lend a helping hand. Volunteers were set up at different areas throughout the islet to help in the continued efforts to get Rockaway back on its feet.

Finnegan, the executive director of the New York Irish Center in Long Island City, said the goal of the program was to “rally as many volunteers available to go there and basically just do a day’s work in the rebuilding process in the Rockaways.”

Nearly 600 “shoebox” Christmas gifts were assembled and packaged at P.S. 104 in Far Rockaway, according to Finnegan. He went on to explain that these were shoe boxes, assembled by volunteers, that were filled with small toys to help give storm-affected children something to smile about this season.

The organizers, including the Irish Consulate to New York, opted for the Rockaways because it was close to many of the city’s culture centers, and because of the large Hibernian population on the peninsula.

“There are many affected areas but we have focused on the Rockaways,” Finnegan said. “It’s close to our center, the Irish community organizations, and it’s very much a part of the community.”

This the second time a relief day had been organized by the New York Irish community to help Sandy recover. The first, held on Saturday, November 24, saw a number of people turn out to help those who had practically lost everything.

Volunteers out in force for Irish Day of Action

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Maureen Sullivan


Residents of the Rockaways experienced a different kind of surge as almost 1,000 Irish volunteers arrived to lend a hand in a massive display of community spirit.

Seven different meeting points throughout Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx were busy at the crack of dawn on Saturday, November 24 as volunteers boarded chartered buses to the areas most badly hit by superstorm Sandy.

The New York Irish Center in Long Island City was one such meeting point and also one of several Irish organizations that joined forces to create this special day of service.

“Our aim was to get as many able-bodied people to help out as possible; to make one big, united effort,” said Jane McCarter, the Center’s arts and cultural director.

Before they departed, volunteers were given T-shirts to wear with a slogan that read “Irish Day of Action,” and underneath it, one word familiar to many that day: “Meitheal” (meh-hull), the Gaelic word to describe the long Irish tradition of coming together to help one’s neighbor.

This was by no means the first relief effort by the Irish community; it was a move to support existing efforts, according to Peter Ryan, deputy consul general of Ireland who was present that day.

“We are complementing what was already being done,” he said. “We felt that it would be nice for everyone to come together and show solidarity.”

He estimated that, combined with volunteers already on the ground, the Irish Day of Action brought an additional 500 helpers, bringing the total to 1,000.

Members from such organizations the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Emerald Guild, the Gaelic Athletic Association and the Emerald Isle Immigration Center worked together in small groups that local coordinators assigned to devastated homes in areas like Breezy Point and Hamilton Beach – places that many generations of Irish Americans have called home.

“I don’t know what we would do without you, I really don’t,” said Cathy Segur, 63, of Old Howard Beach, as she watched a team of volunteers gut the home of her 90- year-old aunt, Elizabeth McCord.

Irish native Des McGoldrick, 47, his wife Fran, and their two college-age children, Chris and Caitlin, spent the day together, working on McCord’s home. Part of a team of 12, they spent hours clearing the house of its contents and knocking down walls.

“It was shocking. [That house] is as bad as it gets,” said Des, “but I was certainly impressed by all the volunteers. They were there for one reason – to get the work done.”