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
“We really wanted to do something,” Mary told the Irish Voice. “And when we saw that there was an Irish Day of Action we signed right up.”
The Cassells family went home to home with a number of other Irish volunteers. They helped one elderly lady clean out her ruined kitchen.
“It’s such a different experience being here as opposed to seeing it on TV,” said Siobhan, a sentiment shared by most of the Irish volunteers, some of whom were visiting the Rockaways for the first time.
Laurence McGoldrick lived in New York for 45 years, and moved back to Belmullet, Co. Mayo in 2007 with his wife. They have two children who still reside in New York, and McGoldrick was here visiting them for Thanksgiving.
“I definitely made a point to volunteer today,” he told the Irish Voice. “I used to come out here in the 1960s so I really felt like I wanted to help.”
McGoldrick worked in construction with Structure Tone, so his skills came in handy. He helped to take up a floor in one person’s home that had been covered in three feet of sand, and he worked on a kitchen demo.
“I watched the storm on TV in Ireland,” he said. “It was scary. And I can’t believe what I’m seeing here today.
“But I also have to say that the volunteers I’ve met have been just wonderful. The Irish really know how to help each other out when we need it most.”
Young members of the Shannon Gaels Football Club in Queens flexed their muscles and used their seemingly boundless amounts of energy to shift heavy couches and tables from one residence on Beach 128th Street. The furniture pieces would have been tough to carry down the narrow staircase – “but someone had to have gotten them up here,” one of the teens rightly noted – so the guys opened the doors of the small porch and heaved them down on the street.
Many of the volunteers were strangers to each other when they arrived in the Rockaways, but left as friends. Given that so many of them were Irish-born, it was no surprise that six degrees of separation turned out to be more like one or two.
Cha Connaughton, one of the driving forces behind the Shannon Gaels, was talking to Noreen Hussey from Bronxville, who was part of his volunteer group. Turns out that Connaughton, from Williamstown, Co. Galway, knew Hussey’s uncle when he was growing up.
“He was a big strong man, a lovely man, and I remember that he accidentally hit me with a shovel,” Connaughton laughed while one of his sons worked in the background.
Eugene Smyth, a landscaper from Co. Wicklow, was also part of the group. His wife has spent much of her free time helping friends affected by the storm, particularly in Long Beach, Long Island.
“We’ve been trying to give as many people as we can a helping hand,” says Smyth.
The generosity of spirit among the Irish volunteers didn’t go unnoticed by Noreen Doherty, a long-time resident of Beach 122nd Street who stayed in her studio residence for the duration of the storm because “I’m a thick Irish mick,” as she described herself.
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