Perserving traditions, serving those in need and connecting the Irish and Irish American community members young and old, after 25 years the Aisling Irish Center is gearing up for its next chapter.
If you were on McLean Avenue in Yonkers recently you would be forgiven for thinking that the boarded-up building beside St. Barnabas School was the result of the economic hardship that Covid has caused.
Thankfully you would be wrong as the plywood camouflages the major renovations that are currently being carried out in the Aisling Irish Community Center. Twenty-five years ago the center was launched as a not-for-profit organization to assist the Irish and Irish American community in New York.
Over the last quarter of a century, with good management, a dedicated staff, committed board members, lots of volunteers and a supportive environment, the Aisling Center has grown steadily to become a valued and vibrant part of the Irish American community in the tri-state area.
In 2018 the center reached a major milestone in its growth and consolidated its position by purchasing the building on McLean Avenue, also known as the Emerald Mile. Following the purchase of our premises, the Aisling Center embarked upon an ambitious plan to expand and re-develop the building to cater to the increased demand for its services and enable them to provide quality community programs in a modern, safe and spacious environment.
For some, the Aisling Center is the first port of call when a need or a crisis arises, but it’s far more than that. There’s an amazing array of programs and services for the growing and diverse community.
The Young at Heart program has been a major success with the seniors. It not only provides them with nutritional needs and social support but also a host of activities that benefit mind and body.
The needs of the elderly are being dutifully and diligently dealt with by the Aisling staff during the pandemic. The center also caters extensively with food runs locally and to New York City, for society’s most vulnerable, namely the hungry and the homeless.
Mind Yourself is not just a causal platitude that we thoughtlessly throw around to each other, but a core concept that the Aisling Center endorses and promotes. The center has an open-door policy and problems are addressed promptly by a licensed clinical social worker who provides free counseling for those who need it. The center is truly a beacon of refuge, hope, support, and advocacy in our community.
The portfolio of the Aisling Center’s community programs is always growing as is obvious from some recent events. The emergence of Team Aisling breathed new life into the Yonkers Marathon and now it’s one of the city’s main sporting events in the fall. Besides bolstering the marathon and related races and runs, Team Aisling has set off another running boom as an official member of the Road Runners Club of America.
Team Aisling showed its true strength and conviction by raising over $80,000 for Slainte 2020 to assist those among us who were adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The 4Fs, namely, fun, fitness, friendship, and fundraising, certainly captures the spirit of the fast-growing running club.
Keep the Tradition Alive has long been a slogan of the Aisling Center, and they certainly have done that with their music and dance and Irish language classes over the years. The cultural tradition got a great boost with the formation of the Aisling Ceili Band and the Aisling Ballad Group under the able baton of Dawn Doherty. Both groups are in big demand at Irish-themed functions.
The acme of their accomplishments was being selected from hundreds of acts, to perform virtually on Ireland’s popular TV show, the Late Late Christmas Toy Show hosted by Ryan Tubridy. Their performance which was filmed in Times Square got rave reviews.
The Aisling Center endeavors to address the needs of all ages across the lifespan, especially teenagers, a group that’s often overlooked. Two years ago the Aisling Center adopted Foroige, which is the largest youth organization in Ireland, for implementation here in New York. Literally translated it means youth development. The program is designed to build youth’s self-esteem and confidence through challenging experiences and to help them develop the ability to manage personal and social relationships. So far, Foroige groups are flourishing in New York and Rockland.
In 2018 the Aisling Center launched the Mulcahy Scholarship as a tribute to the wonderful work of Denis Mulcahy and his family’s commitment to Project Children. This hugely successful program was the topic in the documentary How to Defuse a Bomb narrated by Liam Neeson. The Mulcahy Scholarship affords American high school students the opportunity to travel to Ireland, and locally in the U.S., to experience Irish culture, arts, heritage, and sports in a fun and diverse way. The Aisling Center along with the Mulcahy family are eager to extend the scholarship program so many more young Irish-Americans can have this wonderful experience.
The center conducts computer classes, Irish language sessions, fitness, exercise, karate, Pilates, yoga, and Zumba dance. It is also a hub for providing assistance and guidance with immigration matters and employment issues.
After a quarter of a century of sustained growth, the current space and facilities can no longer adequately meet the ever-increasing demands for programs and services. The security of having a state-of-the-art home of their own has inspired confidence that the center will continue to cater to the growing and diverse needs of the community.
Granted these are regarded as tough and challenging times socially and economically, but you have to admire the tenacity and resoluteness of the Aisling staff and directors that they have stuck to their mission despite the adverse economic conditions. Obviously, the project has been in the pipeline for a while because to-date an impressive $1.2 million has been raised for the purchase and redesign of the building to have it compatible with ever-increasing emerging needs.
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It is estimated that approximately another half a million is needed to complete the project by early summer. We know that the community has been very supportive through the years. So here is an opportunity to contribute to rebuilding the Aisling Center that we believe is “for the community by the community”.
People are encouraged to join the virtual campaign to “Buy a Brick and Build for the Future” for an amount that can be specifically tailored to their budget.
There are five levels of sponsorship in buying a brick in the virtual wall.
Level 1 is $100+; Level 2: $500+; Level 3: $1,000+; Level 4: $5,000+; Level 5: $10,000+.
While your bricks will contribute to the rebuilding of the Aisling Center, you can also perpetuate the memory of a loved one, a family member, or a dear friend with a dedication on the virtual wall. This is an opportunity not to be missed as the dedication will have permanency of the building itself.
Nearly two millennia ago St. Patrick introduced us to Christianity and its correlates of caring and giving. Now as we celebrate and honor our great patron saint, perhaps we could direct some of that giving and caring to continue the great work of the Aisling Center. Rest assured that your donation and dedication will be cherished and remembered, it’ll be on the virtual wall in the heartland of the Irish-American community in Yonkers for years to come.
Thank you for helping us build this magnificent facility which will make a lasting impact on the lives of young and old among us for generations to come.
* Frank Brady is a member of the board of the Aisling Irish Center.