'It was like visiting a war zone'

KILGARVAN woman Órla Kelleher has described her first visit to the Irish stronghold of Far Rockaways in New York in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy as "like visiting a war zone".

Daughter of Mary and the late Jimmy Kelleher, the mother-of-two is the former owner of the Roughty Bar in Kilgarvan but is now Centre Director with the Aisling Irish Community Centre in New York after moving Stateside in 2004.

The facility was one of the first to help out in the Rockaways area and Órla has been integral in directing aid to stricken families.

"You just couldn't describe the scene - a war zone was the closest thing to it," she told The Kerryman this week. "When we drove in there was a boat in the middle of the road, sand everywhere and cars were cars piled up on top of each other. To see the burnt out buildings where the fires broke out it was difficult to take in," she recalled.

"A lot of older Irish people have retired in the Rockaways and it became very obvious, quickly, that people were in a bad way having no contact with the outside world - no heat, power or transport."

Revealing how she put out an appeal through social media for donations of non perishable foods she says the centre was able to get the first truckload of supplies onsite within 24 hours.

"I shouldn't be surprised as people are so generous when it comes to something like this - it was just amazing to see car after car pull up on the Saturday morning and load their donations onto the truck."

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