Aisling Irish Center Celebrates 20 Years
By Olivia O’Mahony, Editorial Assistant
December / January 2017
New York’s Aisling Irish Center celebrated its 20th year of providing community programs and social services to Irish immigrants in October.
As revealed by executive director and Kerry native Orla Kelleher in an IrishCentral interview, the center saw its beginning in the town of Bainbridge in Chenango County, New York. “From what I’ve been told, it was set up by a few people in the back room behind a bar to help the most vulnerable of Irish immigrants,” she added. “So that’s how it got together. Just a few people shouting, trying to figure out a way to help those who needed help.”
In 1996, the Aisling Center relocated to McLean Avenue in Yonkers, where it still stands today. “One third of our funding comes from the Irish government, the Irish Abroad Unit, the immigrant program,” said Kelleher. “There is also great support, not just from the local community, but from the Irish American business community.”
Since the center’s opening, it has expanded its reach to aid those of all nationalities, running weekly lunches for seniors, counseling services funded by the Irish government, classes in Irish culture, language, and dance, computer courses, and Spanish conversation lessons.
“It’s like an extra gene or cell in us,” Kelleher says of the Irish compulsion to give back. “It’s a great thing about the Irish community here that they are always willing to help somebody else out, and not just Irish people exclusively.” ♦