Weekly Comment:
Empire City Drive Provides for Catholic Charities

Left to right: Empire City CEO Tim Rooney, California toy donor Josh Blake, and Monsignor Kevin Sullivan. (Photo courtesy Empire City Casino)

By Olivia O'Mahony, Editorial Assistant
December 16, 2016

The 10th annual “Christmas Spirit” Toy and Coat Drive was held by Empire City Casino of Yonkers, New York in aid of Catholic Charities on December 15. Nearly one thousand coats and children’s toys were donated to bring holiday cheer to many New Yorkers in need this winter season.

President and CEO of Empire City Casino Timothy J. Rooney presented the donation to executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York Monsignor Kevin Sullivan and Aisling Irish Community Center of Yonkers executive director Orla Kelleher, who accepted on behalf of their respective organizations. Rooney, an Irish American native of Pittsburgh who was awarded with the 1977 Founders Award by the American Irish of Westchester for his concern for and commitment to the Irish American community, also provided a $10,000 personal donation to the Catholic Charities cause for the second year in a row.

Despite its reputation as a wealthy region of New York, up to 10 percent of Westchester County residents live in poverty, with 31 percent of that number under the age of 17. Fifty-two percent of families living in poverty are single-parent households, and 12 percent suffer from unemployment.

“Social responsibility is not just for corporations,” Rooney stated during the presentation event, which took place before the donation display in the casino atrium. “It is imperative we all do what we can. Giving back is about community and helping others move forward. There are no greater deeds than charity and service.”

“This donation of toys and coats […] will benefit some of the more vulnerable families that we work with in the City of Yonkers and beyond,” said Monsignor Sullivan. “In this Christmas season we are grateful that this spirit of generosity and caring enables Catholic Charities to provide help and new hope in the lives of non-Catholics and Catholics alike whom we serve.”

Each year, Catholic Charities distributes the toys and coats among families previously assisted in the areas such as senior services, food, housing, or immigration, as well as legal and domestic violence assistance. Founded in 1917, Catholic Charities is a federation of approximately 90 agencies and social aid  programs located within the Archdiocese of New York.

“Aisling Irish Community Center is delighted to be chosen again this year as of Empire City Casino’s annual coat and toy drive,” said Kelleher, who hails from Co. Kerry. “[This] generous donation to our holiday appeal is welcomed with open arms.” The center, famed for its status as a place of solace for Irish and non-Irish immigrants, low income families, and homeless individuals, celebrated its 20th year of service in October.

Also in attendance was the Mayor of the City of Yonkers, Mike Spano, who thanked Rooney and Empire Casino for their work for the Yonkers community. Spano took the opportunity to reflect on the nature of giving, reminding the gathered crowd that “the holiday season is not about what we hope to receive in gifts, but rather how we can give ourselves to benefit others in our community.” ♦


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