The Aisling Center
The Irish Americans
At the heart of the Irish community in Yonkers, New York lies the Aisling Irish Community Center, a hub for Irish immigrants and ex-pats. The center, which was established in 1996 to provide assistance to the wave of Irish immigrants, has over the years become a fully fledged social services organization delivering a vital range of social, educational and recreational services and programs for the entire community.
On an average week, some 300 people contact the center either on the telephone, through e-mail or in person. Executive Director of the Aisling Center, Orla Doherty from Co. Kerry, is the backbone of the organization. She told Irish America that they endeavor on a daily basis to help the Irish community as best they can. “We help people out with a wide number of issues ranging from unemployment to medical assistance to substance abuse,” said Doherty.
As the Celtic Tiger roared in Ireland, the center’s focus shifted from solely providing assistance to new immigrants to those already established in the country. In recent years the center has become an educational vessel and social club for senior members of the Irish community. On any given day, more than a dozen men and women, sometimes double that, can be found laughing and sharing stories of times past in the back room of the center as the Irish elderly sip their Barry’s tea and nibble fresh scones from a local Irish restaurant.
The center is also home to numerous cultural programs including Irish language, music and dance. Every Monday, a dedicated group of volunteers can be found preparing food at the center that is later distributed to homeless on the streets of New York.
Although the center only has three full-time staff (pictured above), up to 40 volunteers help out with various projects. Sr. Christine Hennessy of Project Irish Outreach and Catholic Charities is also based at the center. Sr. Christine is a social worker who spends most of her time visiting elderly and ill members of the community and providing support to persons experiencing difficulties.
Last year the center produced Memory Brings Us Back, a 60-minute documentary featuring the captivating stories of 10 children of Ireland who immigrated to the U.S. between 1927 and 1964. It was based on a book created at the center in 2006 called While Mem’ry Brings Us Back Again, which stemmed out of a writing class for the elderly. It began with the words “I remember…” The project ignited a torrent of recollections about sailing on ships such as the SS America, SS Washington, the Britannica, the Olympia, and the Queen Elizabeth.
The Aisling Irish Community Center is located at 990 McLean Avenue, Yonkers, NY 10470. www.aislingcenter.org (914) 237 5121.
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