By Jack Holland
A group of Irish Americans have banded together in an ambitious attempt to serve up disaster relief on a plate. But the plate they will be using is no ordinary one.
The Irish American Disaster Relief Fund has linked up with Ireland’s oldest and most historic pottery, Belleek Pottery Ltd., to raise money for Irish-American victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York. Belleek’s head designer, Fergus Cleary, worked on a special design to commemorate the horrific events of that day.
“We feel we have a very beautiful plate,” said John Maguire, the company’s managing director. It depicts the skyline of Manhattan, with the Twin Towers dominating the scene, bordered by Irish and American flags. Each plate will sell for $95, $50 of which will be donated to the relief fund. Belleek will be shipping some 10,000 of the plates to the U.S.
“America has been a great supporter of Belleek,” said Maguire, “so I think it is fitting for us to contribute.” He said that 80 percent of what Belleek produces goes to the U.S.
“The Irish American Disaster relief Fund embodies the determination and spirit of the Irish American people. We are honored to be associated with the Fund in producing this plate,” he said.
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The IADRF began from a group of Irish American volunteers who worked with Father Tom Flynn at the Aisling Community Center on the border between the Bronx and Yonkers. Every Monday volunteers from the center feed homeless people.
“On the night after the attack on the Twin Towers we took down about $10,000 of food and supplies to the police officers, firemen, soldiers and emergency workers at Ground Zero,” Fr. Flynn explained. “We had the infrastructure to do it.” They brought more food on the following Saturday night.
“It was surreal, the devastation,” Fr. Flynn recalled. “There are no words that can describe it. It’ll stay with me for the rest of my life.”
Ray Burns is chairman of the IADRF. He said that they decided that they’d like to extend their efforts.
“We’d like to have something in place should there be another disaster here, or in Ireland,” said Burns, who lost four fellow employees of the City Group in the North Tower attack. “The funds go directly to the victims. Nobody gets paid, the costs are minimal.”
Though the IADRF was launched in February, the Belleek commemorative plate sale will be the group’s first major fund-raising drive.
“We are indebted to Belleek Pottery for this very generous contribution to the Fund,” Burns said. I can think of no more fitting way to commemorate the victims of the Sept. 11 tragedy.” The plates will be on sale from June 24.
In some ways the occasion will be a bittersweet one for Fr. Flynn. After seven years working for the Irish community in the Bainbridge/Woodlawn/Yonkers area, he is being moved back to a parish in Ireland. A farewell party is being held for him at Rory Dolan’s on June 30.
“I would loved to have stayed longer and seen the IADRF’s work through to the end,” said Fr. Flynn. “But I’ve always known I was only on loan here.”
Orders for the plate will be taken only through the IADRF by calling 1 (800) 860-9499 or by ordering directly through www.IrishAmericanFund.org.