They came, they saw, then went to work - massive turnout at Irish Day of Action
Ready, set, action for Irish volunteers at Irish Day of Action
They came, they saw, and then they went to work with shovels, disinfectants and other essentials – that’s how 1,000 volunteers spent last Saturday’s Irish Day of Action for the Rockaways, the traditionally Irish peninsula in Queens which is still struggling with the overwhelming after-effects of Hurricane Sandy.
Coordinated by the Irish Consulate in New York in conjunction with several other Irish American groups, the Day of Action was a rousing success, with buses full of workers from Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Westchester and Rockland – not to mention those who traveled independently – descending on various Rockaway communities to offer their physical and moral support.
Wearing “Irish Day of Action” t-shirts donated by Aer Lingus, the brisk, windy day didn’t deter volunteers both young and older from pitching in to help clean out basements, rip down walls, toss damaged furniture and distribute meals to local residents, many of whom continue to be displaced by Sandy’s unprecedented punch.
“What I witnessed last Saturday was all that is best about the Irish and Irish American communities in New York -- Irish people of all ages and backgrounds coming together to do practical work for the benefit of those who suffered most, irrespective of their ethnicity,” Irish Consul General Noel Kilkenny told the Irish Voice.
“Seeing nearly 1,000 Irish going about restoring the homes, neighborhoods and livelihoods destroyed by Sandy would make you so proud. It was certainly the proudest moment I have experienced as consul general of Ireland in New York.”
The Irish outreach centers – the Emerald Isle, Aisling Irish Center and the New York Irish Center – have been sending volunteers to the Rockaways since the storm struck on October 29, and their knowledge of the area proved instrumental in ensuring that the Day of Action was well coordinated from start to finish.
Buses were dispatched to five locations throughout the Rockaways, including Breezy Point, the area most rocked by the storm with more than 100 homes burned to the ground. Irish organizers also worked with locals and New York officials to ensure that the man, woman and even kid power they supplied was used to maximum effect.
Most of the volunteers who traveled on the buses – which departed their locations at 7 a.m. – were in place and ready for assignments by 9 a.m. Trucks provided by Liffey Van Lines once again transported heavy goods to places where the volunteers were working, and the day wrapped up after 3 p.m. as darkness began to set in.
The locals were exceptionally grateful for the assistance from their Irish friends. “They are such wonderful people,” said Sandra Boyle as she dished out hot pasta inside a food and warming tent donated by Irish company Navillus Construction at St. Francis De Sales Church on Beach 129th Street.
Boyle works at the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in Queens and was glad to give her Saturday over to helping those who badly need it. So was Mary Cassells, a native of Clare who lives in Putnam County with her husband Martin and daughters Siobhan and Courtney.
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