Home-grown hero helps out a storm

December 22, 2012

By Christine Keighery

While most of us could only watch in helpless horror as Hurricane Sandy wrought havoc across the U.S eastern seaboard back in October this year, one South Armagh man has made it his mission to help those whose lives have been devastated by the superstorm.

Mickey McCreesh, a native of Mullaghbawn who now lives in Sunnyside, Queens with his wife and two children, has visited severely affected areas like the Rockaways and Breezy Point every Saturday since the first weekend after the storm hit.  He and a contingent of South Armagh men have provided vital assistance to people who have lost everything.

McCreesh and business partner Nick Murphy from County Offaly own Bar 43 in Sunnyside, which has served as a drop-off location for those donating food, clothing and other supplies for storm victims. The Sunnyside volunteers have spent the last weeks delivering supplies to stricken residents in the worst hit areas, as well as organising fundraisers and helping to reconstruct devastated and damaged homes.

The Examiner spoke to the selfless South Armagh man about his relief efforts, which are a source of great pride to his South Armagh connections at home, which include parents Noel and Maureen McCreesh, proprietors of Mullaghbawn’s Spar shop, and his two sisters, Shona and Grainne.

Mickey explained how new problems are arising all the time, with homes in the areas which bore the brunt of the hurricane now suffering from terrible mould.

“We organized a fundraiser where we raised about $22,000,” he said, “so the last few weeks we have just been buying supplies and dropping them to different areas. We’ve mostly been buying a product called Moldex which kills the mould.  You can’t buy the product anywhere local so I have been using my construction connections to get large deliveries of it whenever I can.”

Mickey described a “heartbreaking” first visit to the Rockaways, a town which suffered untold devastation, with vast areas which “simply don’t exist anymore” but paid tribute to the “amazing spirit of the people out there. They are great the way they are sticking by each other.”

The humble volunteer was quick to highlight the fantastic efforts of all the “South Armagh lads” who have been committed to helping stricken communities ever since the storm broke, in particular, Dave Fleming from Bessbrook.

“He’s the only person that has accompanied me every single time I have gone out volunteering. The two of us have been out twelve times now since the storm hit. I joke with people that you can’t pay him to work on a Saturday but he will volunteer every spare minute he gets” said Mickey adding,

“It would definitely make you proud to be from South Armagh when you see the way all the lads have come together to help out.”

With Christmas fast approaching the recent drive for the Sunnyside volunteers has been to raise money to buy presents for kids in affected areas and Mickey was proud to tell us that just last week $4000 dollars worth of toys were delivered to deserving children.

He commends the fantastic response from local communities and says that, despite being busy since the arrival of a newborn son just before the storm hit, he will continue to reach out to those in need, with the help of other dedicated volunteers.

Sinn Fein Councillor, Pat McGinn expressed the pride of Mr McCreesh’s native home saying,

“We are all very proud of the good work that Mickey and indeed many other Irish living in New York and America are doing to help and support all those in most need.

“I had the pleasure of walking with Mickey behind the County Armagh banner  in this year’s St Patrick’s Day Parade in New York and I know he is recognised as a hard-working and committed  man, who has helped many with his charitable endeavours.

“It would come naturally to him to support many of those effected by Hurricane Sandy. Well done to him, his family and all involved.”