An Irish 'Point' of view - Irish Day of Action at Breezy Point, Queens
Volunteers out in force to help clean up Breezy Point after Hurricane Sandy
McCreesh and Murphy have worked with Sunnyside Cares, a group of volunteers that’s been going back and forth to the hard-hit Rockaway Peninsula offering assistance. Though he has a new one-month old child at home, McCreesh says he can’t stay away from the Rockaways.
“I just can’t believe it. I’ve made so many trips here and I still can’t believe it,” he says.
“The free time that I have – this is where I want to be.”
The volunteers who packed buses organized by the Irish Day of Action feel the same way. Two busloads of workers from Westchester and Pearl River arrived before 9 a.m. on Saturday and received direction on where they were needed from Habitat for Humanity volunteers who each day man a tent on 208th Street.
Nora Keaney lives in Yorktown Heights. Originally from Farranfore, Co. Kerry, shopping for Thanksgiving weekend sales held no appeal for her on Saturday, not when so many people are still suffering.
“I really wanted to give back,” says Keaney, who came to America in 1965. “I had heard all about the Rockaways and what a popular place it was for the Irish to go many years ago. I brought a pitcher of Holy Water with me, and rosary beads each with a decade.”
Keaney was scrubbing the walls of the Christ Community Church, just behind the Habitat tent, with fellow volunteers Cara Dennehy, 11, and Colleen Kelly. All of them departed from the Hudson Valley Irish Center at 7 a.m. sharp.
“Of course we had seen everything that was going on, but it was tough for us to get down here on our own,” says Kelly.
“So when we heard about the Irish Day of Action it was great. It gave us a chance to make an impact with an organized group.”
“It’s so different from what you see on TV,” said Cara, a sixth grader whose parents Siobhan and Dan helped organize the Irish Day of Action.
“I feel really good that I got to come here with my sister Ashling and my family to do something.”
Siobhan Dennehy is the executive director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, with offices in Woodlawn and Woodside. Not reaching out to those in need was never an option, she says.
“You can’t really describe what you see here. All I kept thinking when I was watching it on TV was, if that was my home, or my school or my community, I would really want volunteers to come and help me out. So we’re all more than happy to be able to do whatever we can really.”
Jim Whelan, a member of the AOH Division 3 in Pearl River, was shocked by the aftermath of the storm.
“The amount of destruction is unreal,” he said while taking a time out to warm up with a coffee.
Whelan grew up in the Bronx – his father was a native of Co. Carlow. He spent the morning cleaning up houses. “I hope we made a dent, however small, in all the suffering around here,” he added.
The robust Rockland GAA was well-represented in Breezy Point. Emmett Woods, the organization’s chairman, spent his morning demolishing someone’s bathroom.
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