For residents of Rockaway Beach, N.Y., it was the Knights of Columbus to the rescue after they were struck by Superstorm Sandy.
The local chapters of the Knights of Columbus and the Ancient Order of Hibernians collected more than 400 pounds of goods to give to the neighborhood on the south shore of Long Island. The connection between Missoula and Rockaway began several months ago, when two people were brought together by their passion for the Irish language.
Ed Shevlin, a sanitation worker and Irish language student in Rockaway Beach took a road trip across the country on his motorcycle in September to raise money for a friend’s child who had been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.
“I decided to ride from Rockaway Beach, N.Y., to Rockaway Beach, Calif.,” Shevlin said.
He raised $11,000 for juvenile diabetes research on this year’s ride. Shevlin had also been awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study Irish in Ireland.
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“I have a blue-collar job, but apparently now I’m also a scholar,” Shevlin said.
One of the stops that he made was in Missoula to see and meet people from the Irish Studies program at the University of Montana. One of the people he met was Traolach O’Riordain, the director of UM’s Irish Studies program. The two became fast friends.
“I love Montana, of all the states I’ve visited, 38 of them, I think it’s the most beautiful,” Shevlin said, “And the thing is, the people match the beauty.”
When Shevlin went back to New York, he arrived right in time to see the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. O’Riordain, who had stayed in touch with Shevlin, asked if there was anything he and the people in Missoula could do to help.
“This place was absolutely devastated. It was like a war zone here, just turned upside down. We lost houses, ones that burned to the ground, the only things left are brick stairways leading up to nothing.” Shevlin said.
“Shevlin said what people really need now are heavy coats, blankets, practical things,” O’Riordain said. Shevlin posted a list of items that could help on his Facebook wall.
O’Riordain, who is a member of both the Knights of Columbus and the Ancient Order of Hibernians, called upon the groups to help gather goods. In all, they sent 16 crates with more than 400 pounds of supplies, and shipped them on a Greyhound bus.
When the crates arrived in Rockaway Beach, a garbage truck from the sanitation department came to pick them up at the bus station.
“The sanitation department there has a lot of members of the Knights,” O’Riordain said, “When the chief heard from Shevlin what was happening, he said ‘Well take the bloomin’ truck and go get it.’ ”
The goods were brought to the local Knights of Columbus chapter house to be distributed to those in need.
“They had received financial aid, but nothing like this, and coming all the way from here” O’Riordain said. “I was proud to know that even across the country, Missoula had played its part to help.”
Dillon Kato is a journalism student at the University of Montana and an intern at the Missoulian. He can be reached at 523-5251 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.