From youth growth and talent, fitness and fund and building a better future for the community last year was a banner year for the Aisling Irish Community Center, in the Bronx, and this year is set to be just as successful

In 1996 the Aisling Irish Community Center was formed to assist Irish immigrants with their emerging needs in their new homeland. Since then the center has evolved and expanded to become one of the largest immigrant resource centers in the tri-state area.  It currently offers a wide range of programs and services, including social, cultural, educational, recreational and counseling across the age spectrum as they continually strive to serve the needs of the community in the Bronx and Westchester County.

Critical to the success of the center has been a  dedicated and professional staff and a loyal and committed group of volunteers over the years. 

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Last year was a banner year for Aisling Irish Center. Perhaps the most significant achievement was that the center purchased the building which they have been renting from the beginning. This assures the community that the center will have a permanent home on McLean Avenue as they continue to grow and expand.

In addition, the center also purchased a new van as reliable transportation is essential as they continue to feed the homeless. This acquisition was greatly facilitated by a very generous donation from Tara Circle. In addition, the van will facilitate the center in many of the activities that it is involved in.

The center has always endeavored to be in tune with the needs of the community, and that certainly is very obvious with their two most recent ventures regarding the youth.

Last year a branch of Foroige was established

Foroige has been the dominant youth organization for over half a century in Ireland. The word Foroige is an amalgam of two Gaelic words, namely forbairt, which means development, and oige which means youth. In essence, youth development is the basic premise.

The creed of the program is to empower youth so as to enrich their communities.  Currently, there are a few dozen youngsters involved which afford them opportunities for individual growth, leadership, self-reliance, and responsibility. 

Ceili band and ballad group

The musical talents of the youth in the community will also be fostered as the center recently established a ceili band and ballad group under the direction of Dawn Doherty. The group will have the opportunity to perform at ceremonial and celebratory events in the Irish and Irish American community as well as being a home-based Aisling entertainment group. 

Read more: Shannon Gaels GAA club's field of dreams officially opens

Mulcahy Scholarship

The Aisling Center in conjunction with the Mulcahy family launched the Mulcahy Scholarship which will afford a number of American high school students the opportunity to travel to the Celtic Irish-American Academy in Galway to explore Irish culture, heritage and history for a few weeks in the summer. Incidentally, the center hosted several screenings with packed houses of the documentary How to Defuse a Bomb, which depicts the wonderful story of Project Children and its impact on the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Denis Mulchay, the founder of Project Children, and one of the main people in the documentary is an original board member of the Aisling Center. The current chairperson of the board of directors, Caitriona Clarke, was recently in the spotlight. She was the grand marshal of the Yonkers St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The center’s newly formed social committee sprang into action as they provided ample refreshments to the marching masses in the aftermath of their exertions on a very windy McLean Avenue.

Team Aisling - fun, fitness and fundraising

Perhaps the most visible, vocal and active aspect of the events of the Aisling Center was the birth of Team Aisling. Initially, Catherine Flood conceptualized the notion of perhaps a few dozen runners participating in the Yonkers Marathon, basically to give the Aisling brand a boost and also to revive a race that was struggling badly for participants.

Well to put it mildly, with Catherine as the driving force, Breda Carroll as the taskmaster, and with Father Brendan’s blessing, the concept took off like the proverbial bat out of hell. Instead of a few dozen runners participating, over 300 signed up for either the marathon, half marathon or the 5k.

They adopted the 3Fs as their goals: namely fun, fitness and fundraising, and all three aims were achieved with aplomb. The hills of Yonkers were no obstacle to these fitness fanatics.

Naturally, the fundraising was important, but so also was the fitness judging by the intensity of the post-race partying at Rory Dolan’s. It was no place to wilt when the pressure came on. Of course, nature’s oldest medicine alleviated the pain of aching and tired muscles.

Apparently, the running bug struck a very responsive chord, as now Team Aisling has become an official running club. Whoever wrote about the loneliness of long-distance running must never have seen this bunch in action, they definitely incorporated another “f” into their running, namely friendship, so now the motto is 4 “Fs”.

Evidently, many of these race warriors succumbed to what the psychologist William Glasser labeled as positive addiction as the Aisling color clad runners are showing up in road races across the tri-state area.  A troupe of Aisling runners is also heading to the Dublin Marathon in the fall.

Given that the inaugural run by Team Aisling was such a phenomenal success, it is hoped that it can be replicated this year. The race is scheduled for October 20, and runners/walkers are urged to sign up by June 1 which will enable them to get the complete set of Aisling running gear.

The official launching of Team Aisling will be at JP Clarke’s on McLean Avenue on June 21.  Tracy Dwyer will be assisting with the logistics of the race this year. Contact 914-237-5121.

If running/walking is not your forte, perhaps you might like to play or sponsor a hole in the annual Aisling golf outing which will be at the Pelham Bay Golf Course in the Bronx, on June 17. The event is being generously hosted by Joe and Tara Carty from the Rambling House on Katonah Avenue in Woodlawn.

You will be well looked after as there will be barbeque lunch at registration, followed by dinner and prizes at the Rambling House. The cost is $150 per golfer.

There will be no pressure to drop birdie putts on the par threes or eagles on the par fives as it is a four-ball scramble. The chairperson is Tadhg Foley, 914-804-7283, and the vice-chairperson is Angela Allen 914-316-4016. Further information can be obtained from the Aisling Center at 914-237- 5121.

Aisling Irish  Community Center - money well spent

As noted the Aisling Irish  Community Center is a wonderful asset to have as it provides a myriad of important programs and services that are critical to the wellbeing of the community. So you can do your bit by having fun golfing or running/walking or sponsoring these people and events.

Your money will be well spent, and you’ll be part of something that we in the Irish and Irish- American community should be grateful for, namely, the Aisling Irish Community Center.

Read more: After living in Ireland for almost one year, this is what I’ve learned