Occupation: McCarter is the arts and cultural director for the New York Irish Center in Long Island City.  A native of Buncrana, Co. Donegal, she played a major role this past Saturday in the Meithal Irish Day of Action’s Christmas shoe box appeal.

When did you come to the U.S.?

“I studied drama and psychology at University of Ulster and started work at the Playhouse Theatre in Derry. After four exhilarating years, it was the right time to move to New York on a personal and professional level. I come from a very close family and it was reassuring to have their full support. 

“I’m grateful to my Uncle Willie who introduced me to Turlough McConnell, now a great friend. I was made feel very welcome at the New York Irish Center by its community, staff and executive director Paul Finnegan.”

What do you do with the New York Irish Center?

“I started as arts and cultural director mid-April, and have thoroughly enjoyed working to provide the community with projects involving Irish arts, history and heritage, one being the Tír na nÓg Children’s Festival.”

Can you describe the scene in the Rockaways when you arrived on Saturday morning? 

“On the morning of the 15th hundreds of Meithal na Nollaig volunteers stood together ready to help a dismantled, battered and yet resilient community. It has to be said that as much as there was a sense of energy and eagerness to help, it was parallel with the unfathomable sense of pain and helplessness for the families of Sandy Hook. The horrific tragedy that took place in Connecticut less than 24 hours earlier was on everyone’s minds.”

What was the toy factory like? 

“PS104 was transformed into a toy factory with slightly taller than average elves ranging between seven and 77 in age, furiously working to build as many shoe-box gifts as possible to bring a little holiday cheer to the children of Rockaway. The Christmas shoe box appeal was inspired by Irish charity team Hope.  We wanted to emulate a version of this initiative to meet a more seasonal type of help for the Rockaway community.”

How many gifts were wrapped in the end?

“With the initial 100 donated shoe box gifts and in a very short amount of time, our novice elves managed to produce nearly a further 600 shoe box gifts giving us a grand total approximately 700 shoe box gifts.

“It was an absolute honor to join so many selfless, kind, Irish, Irish American and Irish at heart to help bring a little holiday cheer to the children and families of Rockaway, particularly with something as ordinary as an empty shoe box. Hopefully we have helped to renew a sense of hope and new beginnings for Rockaway in 2013.”