\"Neighbors

Neighbors from the Aisling Irish Center gather to bring donation to the worst hit areas in Queens Photo by: Kelly Donohue

Aisling Irish Center volunteers in disbelief at Hurricane Sandy destruction

\"Neighbors

Neighbors from the Aisling Irish Center gather to bring donation to the worst hit areas in Queens Photo by: Kelly Donohue

The Irish Aisling Center on McLean Avenue in Yonkers goes above and beyond to provide help and support to locals and visitors of the Irish community.

It was no surprise, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, that the people of the Aisling Center were quick to jump to the needs of the victims of the devastation.

In the days following the storm, the center organized drop-off and pick up points for goods, such as food, water, clothes, blankets and cleaning supplies. The support they received from the community was overwhelming.

Due to the amount of goods that were donated, the build up of bags and boxes made it hard to even get in the door of the center. Nobody was complaining.

Help was provided in all kinds of ways. As well as donations, the Aisling Center organized for people willing to volunteer to make the trip to some of the worst hit areas by the storm, including Rockaway and Breezy Point, Queens.

Trips were arranged from last Tuesday through until Saturday.

On Friday morning, a group of 12 volunteers traveled to Rockaway beach in Queens, where Sandy destroyed hundreds of houses, leaving thousands homeless and without power.

The 12 apostles, aged between 21 and 60, were made up of locals as well as some Cavan, Mayo, Dublin, Leitrim, Cork, Donegal and Sligo natives, who had taken time out of their busy New York lives to help others. Peter Mc Kenna, a holiday maker from Tyrone, also volunteered his time.

An arranged mini-bus provided the transportation, while others drove their own car to the destination an hour and a half away.

Seeing the destruction of the neighborhoods in reality was a far cry from pictures and the news.

The bus was filled with sighs and words of disbelief and shock when it struggled to pass through streets filled with water and sand.

The volunteer group gathered at a building where the ring leader, Eunan Doherty, husband of Aisling Center’s Orla Kelleher, gave instruction for the day’s tasks.

A storage room in the 12 story building provided large amounts of hot food, where the group began the day by filling containers of food and then packaged the food into bags containing fruit and water.
 
The crew were then divided into two groups where they each went into different buildings to distribute the goods.

The 12 story buildings were freezing cold and pitched dark. The groups of six proceeded to troop up the 12 flights of stairs to begin at the top floor, knocking on every individual door of the homes of people, in order to see whether they needed food, water or medical attention.

On average, an answer was received from one door per floor. People had either evacuated their homes or were afraid to answer their door due to the amount of looters in the area.

The Aisling Center had insisted volunteers wear warm clothing and bring flash lights. Both were essential for this task.

Of the people who answered their doors, some amazing people in need warmed the hearts of the volunteers, and displayed their appreciation so affectionately. The words of the day were "Thank you," which was heard over and over again throughout the day, in various accents.

The day proved to have meaning. Volunteers met a woman who had survived Chernobyl, a little girl named 'Precious', a dog called 'Angel', and a brother and sister, both with special needs who lived in an apartment, numbered 5H, that they titled, 'Fifth Heaven."

The group finished successfully in the late afternoon, before making their way back to Yonkers.

Just by talking to each individual volunteer, it was obvious that this group of people, along with the others who volunteered earlier during the week and the 79+ on Saturday were kind hearted, generous people, who were willing to put the needs of others before theirs.

In the wake of the hurricane, the people of the Irish community clearly have detached themselves from material things and attached themselves to the love they have for others.

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