Thanksgiving will take on a whole new meaning this Saturday when buses filled with volunteer Irish community members are scheduled to depart for the heavily Irish Rockaways to assist in a day of action for the Queens island badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
Organized by the Irish Consulate in New York in conjunction with prominent Irish community leaders, the buses chartered to pick up volunteers are scheduled to depart from four destinations in the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens at 7 a.m.
All interested volunteers can assemble at these locations -- Aisling Irish Center, 990 Mclean Avenue, Yonkers; the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, 5926 Woodside Avenue, Woodside; the New York Irish Center, 1040 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City; and the Grand Central Airport bus location, located Park Avenue (between 41st and 42nd Street).
Although most homes and apartment blocks in the Rockaways and Breezy Point had their power, heat and hot water restored earlier this week volunteers from local Irish centers told the Irish Voice that people are still waiting in line in the cold for over an hour to get a hot meal and other supplies.
“People can call in to our telephone hotline at 212-684-3366, ext. 127 or register online at Facebook.com/IrishDayOfActionRockaway to participate,” project coordinator Turlough McConnell told the Irish Voice.
“We will pick them up at four locations in the city on Saturday. We have had terrific help from Christine Quinn’s office to locate several spots on the Rockaway Peninsula that volunteers will go to on the day.”
Volunteers will be assigned to different locations where organizers will greet them when they arrive. “Then because it gets cold and dark there by three o’clock in the afternoon there buses will be ready to leave and bring them back to their original destinations,” said McConnell.
In particular the organizers are hoping that Irish community members with construction skills, including electricians and plumbers, will volunteer their time for the good cause.
“There’s a great need out there for really skilled people like electricians and plumbers, but there’s also a need for people who can carry things or participate in other ways. We welcome all people with all backgrounds,” said McConnell.
“We’re getting calls from volunteers as far away as Washington, D.C. who are planning to come in for it. Irish Consul General Noel Kilkenny has also reached out to the different unions because they can bring all kinds of skills to bear.
“My sense is that there is great community interest in helping out in whatever capacity. It’s a way to show the Irish community’s solidarity with people who have been left devastated. It’s also a remarkable way to celebrate the true meaning of Thanksgiving.
“We’ll start with the Rockaways. It’s the Irish seaside resort. And we won’t waste anyone’s time.”
Liffey Van Lines, the moving and storage company founded by Danny Moloney of Co. Clare, has been sending trucks full of supplies to the Rockaways on a regular basis. On Saturday Liffey will have trucks at the pick-up locations in the Bronx, Queens and Manhattan.
“We’ll be there for people to store the things that they’re bringing out, especially contractors who might have heavy equipment that won’t fit on a bus,” Liffey manager Mike Neville told the Irish Voice.
“There will be plenty of room, so people should feel free to bring whatever they like. We will take it there and bring it back to the pick-up locations.”
In the Bronx, the Aisling Center has already been running buses of volunteer workers to the Rockaways for weeks now. “We’ve had large numbers of volunteers participating already,” Aisling Center executive director Orla Kelleher told the Irish Voice.
“At the weekend we had 50 volunteers clean out 10 houses of elderly Irish people and gut two bars. It would be great to see what can happen when a few hundred Irish people go out there.”
At the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in Woodside, executive director Siobhan Dennehy also appealed for skilled Irish workers to participate alongside other volunteers.
“The basic biggest need right now is removing items from houses and getting them out on the curb,” Dennehy said. “But we’d like to try to match people’s skills to the jobs at hand.
“There’s a huge need to find licensed electricians. If someone has plumbing or construction skills, or are willing to take on a role as a project manager that’s what we’re hoping to assign.”
Dennehy added that it’s a volunteer effort for a very god cause. “We’re looking for people to show up on Saturday and help out in whatever way they can,” she said.