The New York Irish Center, a Queens-based organization that caters to the area’s substantial Irish community, has provided an inordinate amount of of supplies and volunteers to several neighborhoods affected by Hurricane Sandy.
In the immediate aftermath, Executive Director Paul Finnegan, of Co. Galway, coordinated efforts to assist victims by providing items such as food and clothing. The center accepted donations and, in association with The Padded Wagon, delivered them to affected neighborhoods, namely: Belle Harbor, Breezy Point and The Rockaways.
“[The Padded Wagon] have been amazing. Greg McIntyre, the general manager, sent over 30-foot trucks that we could fill with supplies and get out to people as soon as possible. And they were just one of many people to help us in the effort.”
Businesses – such as Bar 43, the Dugout Pub, the Gibbons Home, the Mad Hatter Saloon and the Maspeth Ale House – contributed with hot food or volunteers. Groups – including Craobh Úll Mór CCÉ, St. Camillus School and St. Francis de Sales – planned goodwill excursions, known as “Boots on the Ground.”
Yet, despite the collective efforts, Finnegan believes that the devastation “cannot be fixed overnight.” With the support of the Irish community and the continued involvement of organizations such as New York Cares, the center will help as best it can.
“The situation is certainly a work in progress,” he says. “When families lost their homes and personal belongings, they were suddenly left with nothing. And now, in the weeks to follow, many of them must adapt to a different quality of life. But, we will be with them every step of the way, even at the legal stage, when many of them will file insurance claims, and seek out F.E.M.A. assistance.”
Finnegan adds that the center can assist victims in other ways, too.
Bernard Nolan, a senior from Co. Mayo, regularly attended computer classes at the New York Irish Center. After the hurricane swept ashore, he lived in darkness and without heat for three to four days. Nolan used his training to open Skype on his laptop computer, and received messages of encouragement from his friends.
He later journeyed to the center from his apartment in The Rockaways.
He adds that “Nolan is just one of the many great characters at the center. And I think it really shows people the strength of our community.”
At the present moment, the center – located at 1040 Jackson Avenue in Long Island City – continues to accept donations. Many victims require cleaning supplies, such as brooms, dollies, hand trucks and shovels.
The New York Irish Center also seeks volunteers and skilled laborers, such as licensed electricians, to assist in the clean-up effort.
The center will plan events for the upcoming holiday season.