After Hurricane Sandy tore through the heart of Breezy Point in Queens, one of the most Irish neighborhoods in America, a group of Irish GAA superstars took it upon themselves to travel twice across the Atlantic to help with the rebuilding.
Their hard work culminated on Sunday with the re-opening of the Monsignor Connelly Parish Center, part of St. Thomas More parish.
Twenty members and supporters of the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) in Ireland traveled to Breezy Point on their second trip last Thursday, courtesy of Aer Lingus, and the Irish government announced a commitment of $50,000 to facilitate the rebuilding of the facility.
The center is the hub for all kinds of social activities in Breezy Point, including the Catholic Youth Organization and many other local clubs. Members of the GPA first traveled to Breezy Point in the days after Sandy in November, and were touched by the plight of the locals, many of whom had lost their homes and precious possessions after the massive storm.
“We are all about giving back,” said Donal Og Cusack, chairman of the GPA.
“We are so aware of the links between Ireland and America, and how Irish Americans have been so good to us throughout the years. It was our pleasure and honor to give something back to all of our new friends here.”
The twenty members of the GPA, many of them working as tradesmen when not thrilling fans on the sporting field, arrived in New York on Thursday, and immediately journeyed the few miles from JFK Airport to Breezy Point, where they slept on airbeds set up in a back room in the Rockaway Point Fire Department which they helped to clean out and rebuild with new sheetrock and flooring.
Nearby at the Breezy Point Catholic Club the story was the same. The GPA players and supporters, and Aer Lingus officials who also traveled for the humanitarian effort, gutted the storm ravaged club and laid a new floor.
The most visible sign of the Irish contribution to the rebuilding effort in Breezy Point came with the rededication of the Monsignor Connolly Parish Center at St. Thomas More parish.
It is a beautiful facility, with a newly laid hardwood basketball floor courtesy of Eastside Flooring in
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Members of the Irish Emerald Guild group took the lead in the reconstruction of the facility, and Breezy Point locals turned out en masse to show their appreciation.
“It’s a natural fit, the Irish and New Yorkers,” said Flynn. “We were only too happy to help.”
Irish Minister of State for Public Works Brian Hayes was pleased to confirm Irish government support for the rebuilding effort in Breezy Point.
“I have responsibility for flood relief in Ireland,” Hayes said. “We watched the devastation from Sandy in Ireland, and we are happy to contribute to the reconstruction in whatever way we can.”