“Twenty-five Years a Growing” would be a very appropriate title for an opus that tells of the tremendous growth of the Aisling Irish Community Center in Yonkers, starring Catherine Flood.
A quarter of a century ago, Aisling Center was established as an outreach facility on McLean Avenue in a rented building. It immediately became an oasis of support, hope, and hospitality, especially for the victims of the ups and downs they experienced during their life journey.
Since then, its growth has been tremendous as its diversity of programs and services has expanded to cover many aspects of the journey from cradle to grave. The tentacles of the outreach program have spread far and wide into Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, and Rockland, and of course have a very prominent presence on the Emerald Mile in the heart of the mountainous Yonkers.
Indicative of this sustainable growth was the fact that the Aisling Center was strong enough to buy its building a few years ago, thus ensuring that the center had sustainable roots and safe housing on McLean Avenue. That was a great achievement, but Aisling’s management was not content to rest on their laurels.
Since then, the building has been enlarged, completely remodeled, from floor to ceiling and wall. It’s a tremendous transformation, and now the center, in its modern building, can continue to serve a growing customer.
Of course, this didn’t happen by chance, but it was created with great leadership and vision, especially by Executive Director Charles Sandra Feeney, Board Chair Caitriona Clarke, Chief Financial and Development Officer Sean James and General Contractor John Cassels. They were helped a lot by a committed Board of Directors and a generous team of contractors who provided the building with a lot of manpower and materials. It was certainly a building built for the community.
Given the tremendous success of the Aisling Center, there are many reasons to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Such a historic and auspicious event required a high-level party organizer, and Catherine Flood was an obvious choice. Catherine has been at the center from the beginning, and has had all the main offices, as well as designing and promoting several major programs and novels. He has been at the Aisling Center everywhere, and to one observer, “There must be at least three.”
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Aisling Center, Clann Health’s fitness and health guru met with Seamus Keane and launched the “6 Weeks to 6K” program. It’s basically a potpourri of activities related to fun, fitness and movement over the course of six weeks, ending with a 6K run / walk event.
Shelly Hackett and Zach Corish (Manhattan), Cha Connaughton and Siobhan McEntee (Queens), Niall McKenna and Orla Kirby (Rockland), Johnny Glynn and Michelle Doherty (Bronx / Yonkers) are ambassadors for the program in these areas.
So far more than 1,500 have signed up to take part in the final festivities, which take place over two weekends. Last weekend there was a 6km fun / walk race in Manhattan’s Central Park and Juniper Valley Park in Queens.
This weekend, the people of Rockland will leave the GAA Center at 9 a.m., and the Bronx / Yonkers Brigade will begin at 9 a.m. on McLean Avenue on Sunday, Oct. 31, for the final bell of the party.
I hope to see many of you on the starting lines and of course better at the finish line. I’ve been told that this is not a competitive competition, but I can’t calm the runner’s instincts within me.
So here’s the deal: if you’re from a similar time, sixty-10, and if you get to the finish line before me, with a hook or a crook, I’ll give you a good traditional Irish breakfast at Eileen’s Country Kitchen.
Of course, I always remember what my distant cousin Tom said. “You know the guy who’s pretty good at throwing football: ‘If you don’t cheat a little bit, you’re not going to try.'”
On Friday night, there was a ceremony at the Aisling Center. It’s almost ready to open when the furniture arrives, with the dual purpose of recognizing the generous sponsors of the big 25th celebration party, as well as rallying for the next big finals of the 6 Weeks to 6K program. It was very gratifying to hear what the Aisling Center had to say to the few people I spoke to.
Johnny Glynn, the current ambassador of Aisling, had a full medal with Galway, a double star in the Big Apple hurling and football teams, and in addition to helping several teams, he said: “Well, they got me my first apartment and my girlfriend Serena they got it.his first job. ”I’m glad to announce that Johnny and Serena will be leaving the aisle soon.
Breda Carroll, one of the founders of the highly successful Team Aisling, believes that the heartbeat of the community is a great social outlet for everyone and for many vulnerable people in our society.
Courtney Traynor, another New York star athlete, talked about how committed her father was to the Phil Aisling Center. No more truthful words were said, for the great Gael had given the floor to the Aisling Center before his untimely death. Courtney said it was an honor for her and her family to be associated with such a wonderful organization.
Seamus Keane of Clann Health, one of the leading actors and promoters behind the 25th celebrations, said it was amazing what you can achieve when you get a team of people committed to a common goal. The Aisling Center is a powerful testimony to that sentiment.
At this stage, the 25th anniversary of the Aisling Center looks set to be the mother of all parties; could you expect anything less from Catherine Flood in charge?
As I’ve said several times over the years with Catherine at the Aisling Center, you should never light a fire under it, but you may need a small hose to cool it down a bit from time to time.
Thanks to Catherine’s promotional efforts, donations have arrived for the big party. These donors showed up well on a large banner in the center on Friday, which sparked another new idea in his head. He tossed the coin with all the donors that he would like to curl up on a Christmas blanket. A moving thought, but her husband Dermot may have something to say about such risky behavior.
Anyway, this is a party to be missed. You have four options. And even if you don’t want to leave the comfort of your couch, you can help the Aisling Center maintain its excellent work with a traditional birthday card and something in it.
For full disclosure, I’m a little late or maybe I’m a coup at the Aisling Center, and I’m currently the secretary of the Board of Directors. Congratulations to the Aisling Center for its silver jubilee, and we wish you all the best in this wonderful community organization. It is certainly an organization “built for the community”.
For more information, visit www.aislingcenter.org.
* This column first appeared in the October 27 issue of Irish Voice, a peer-to-peer publication in IrishCentral.