Due to their personal and professional experiences, Club members Jack and Paula O’Neil are very interested in making a connection between SOECC and Focus Ireland, an organization which works on the issue of homelessness in Ireland. A couple of years ago, Jack presented an idea for this connection to the Club’s Board of Directors. He proposed helping a homeless organization in Dublin by donating to its cause. The Board was supportive of the idea, but suggested searching for a group which helps individuals throughout the country. Aided by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Jack did his research and found a very worthy recipient: Focus Ireland.

Focus Ireland provides 70 services across Ireland and is seeking to expand to meet rising demand. The group’s vision is four-fold: to prevent homelessness, to provide services to those who are homeless, to develop housing opportunities for the poor, and to promote government policies protecting people from becoming homeless. According to the most recent data available, Focus Ireland helped 12,530 people in its FY 2015. That represented a 9% increase over the previous year, much of which resulted from increased demand for services. 90% of donations go directly to services for the homeless. More information on specific programs is available at Focus’s website: FocusIreland.ie.

During the 50/50 raffle on Halfway to St. Patty’s Day,
the Club was able to raise $425!

How can members of SOECC help?
Right now, members can donate through the Club’s website using the Focus Ireland button on the Payments and Donations Page

For those who would prefer to send a check, the donation can be mailed to the Club or left at the bar. Next year, the hope is to include a donation option on the annual membership renewal form. Like the Galway 2020 project highlighted last month, this is another opportunity for SOECC to preserve its Irish heritage by connecting with an important organization in contemporary Ireland. It is also a way to make a difference for those most in need in our mother country. As Jack said, “If everybody gave even just $5.00, think of the substantial impact that would make.”

Jack grew up in Fall River and later moved to Somerset, where he and Paula raised their three sons. He loved his career in law enforcement, first as a city police officer, and then as a member of the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office. Currently, he keeps busy as a Special Investigator for the U.S. Department of State. Recently retired, Paula is an R.N., who worked as a Visiting Nurse for the last 20 years. Following in their father’s footsteps, their three sons pursued careers related to law: John as a Special Agent for the IRS, Mike as a Detective Sergeant with the Vermont State Police, and Dick as a lawyer.

Both Paula and Jack have unusual Irish heritage stories. Jack’s maternal grandfather emigrated from Ireland first to Scotland and then to the U.S. When he arrived in this country, his documents indicated that he was an immigrant from Scotland. Given the amount of discrimination against Irish immigrants which he witnessed upon arrival, he hid his Irish heritage until quite late in his life. Paula’s great-grandfather was a Protestant bishop in Ireland, and her great-grandmother worked in service to his family. Her grandparents ran away to the U.S. to be married, and her grandfather was, as a result, disowned for marrying a Catholic! Jack and Paula appreciate their membership in the Sons of Erin, including the Irish music, the friendly members, and the Club’s work to preserve and promote Irish heritage.