EDISON, NJ — The American-Irish Association of Central New Jersey (AIACNJ) was formed on September 17, 2013 (on Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day). According to their Facebook page, the group was established, “To unite the American Irish and all who love them in a common bond of friendship.”
They also strive “to promote Irish culture and to preserve its tradition and heritage.” In addition, the AIACJ serves multiple populations in the community.
According to Joan McNichol, President of AIACNJ, the group is a multi-cultural club that has members of Slovak, Portuguese, German and Puerto Rican descent–as well as those whose ancestors hailed from the Emerald Isle.
McNichol shared, “Since our inception, we have marched in the Somerville St. Patrick’s Parade with members, family and friends.” She continued, “[We also have an] after parade get together with corned beef, etc., at the Bridgewater Elks, as they are always so kind to us.” One of the Elks’ past Exalted Rulers is AIACNJ’s Vice-President, John Blaney.
AIACNJ members were very disappointed this year when the parade was canceled just days before St. Patrick’s Day. Fortunately, they were able to commemorate the holiday the prior week by participating in the annual Middlesex County Hail to the Irish Flag Raising Ceremony. McNichol recounted, “We attend the Flag Raising every year with Irish organizations from across our area to celebrate one another.”
AIACNJ hosts an annual Thanksgiving food drive and also hosts a Christmas party for veteran residents of Lyons Hospital. They are grateful that the Somerville Elks Lodge #1068 allows them to have the Christmas party in their building. AIACNJ, in turn, helps the Elks throw “a pizza party or two.”
McNichol mentioned that AIACNJ “gives scholarships, sends packages to deployed troops and celebrates Mother’s Day with the residents of Ozanam Family Shelter.”
Some of the organizations that AIACNJ is affiliated with and contributes to are Project Children, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and the American Irish Association of Woodbridge. McNichol was president of the Woodbridge chapter when she resided there, before moving to Edison.
AIACNJ has participated in community service projects to benefit Ozanam House, Wounded Warriors as well as local families in need.
AIACNJ also presents annual Scholar-Citizen Awards to graduating seniors of Irish descent who attend Metuchen High School, Saint Joseph’s High School and Woodbridge High School.
Most recently, AIACNJ helped the Highland Park Community Food Pantry during COVID-19. AIACNJ member Joe Cunha is a volunteer at the Highland Park food bank and told the other members about the many people who rely on the food bank. The group decided to donate funds to the pantry to help them feed more people during the pandemic.
McNichol explained, “We have one annual fundraiser, a Superbowl event, that raises $500. That fundraiser is earmarked for our scholarship awards, our party at the Ozanam Shelter and our Holiday gifts for veterans at Lyons Hospital.” She also shared, “Our other efforts are funded by our dues and by additional donations from our members.”
AIACNJ will be unable to have an in person gathering for Christmas this year because of the pandemic. However, members will meet at John and Theresa Blaney’s home for their annual Santa’s Workshop where they assemble gift bags for the veterans at Lyons Hospital. AIACNJ will also celebrate the holidays with members exchanging “Secret Santa” gifts.
AIACNJ meets the first Friday of each month and welcomes new members of all ethnicities.
Click HERE for more information about AIACNJ
Click HERE to see their Facebook page
Or call (732) 744-4153