I appeal to those who historically support our appeal to continue your support. But I want to target the 75 percent of divisions that do not give and ask that you consider giving this year.
In April, I received a request from the Connecticut AOH /LAOH convention to make a presentation regarding Freedom For All Ireland and specifically the yearly Christmas appeal. This request afforded me the opportunity to prepare a detailed look into the history and performance of our yearly appeal. The result was that I developed a presentation that I have been honored to present at several conventions this summer. It gives a brief history of the AOH and our support of a United Ireland, it traced our involvement and support of the struggle for Irish freedom from the end of the 19th century to today, it reviewed the groups we support, where the funds go, and why those funds are still so important.
In the last 10 years the Christmas Appeal has raised over $570,000. This is a number that we can all be proud of. An analysis of the donations show that we have a dedicated core group of donors who fund a great portion of the appeal and a participation rate from AOH divisions that is surprising low. Last year’s appeal served as a perfect case in point. The 2010 appeal generated just under $61,000 and, of that, almost two thirds — or about $40,000 — was the result of 25 donations from boards, divisions and one individual. All of these 25 donations were all over $1,000. The final $21,000 was the result of 157 donations of less than $1,000 and raffle returns of almost $2,000. Whether the donation was $5 to $6,500 all donations are greatly appreciated and the sacrifice noted. The alarming result of this analysis is that nationally, out of 370 AOH divisions, only 96 contributed or a disappointing 25 percent.
So this year, 2011, I want to once again appeal to those who historically support our appeal to continue your support. But I want to target the 75 percent of divisions that do not give and ask that you consider giving this year.
Consider giving because: The third principle of our national constitution’s preamble states one of the purposes of our organization is: To aid and advance by all legitimate means the aspirations and endeavors of the Irish people for complete and absolute independence, promoting peace (with justice) and unity for all Ireland. Our Christmas appeal helps work toward “One Island, One Ireland with Justice for All.” Be a part of it. The groups we support are helping to build confidence and trust in cross-community and reconciliation efforts.
Consider giving because: Our job is not finished in the North until there is a United Ireland inclusive of all people’s rights. The groups we support are fighting for these rights and justice for those who have been deprived of rights and truth in the past.
Consider giving because: there are ex-republican prisoners who spent large portions of their lives unjustly jailed. They never once complained about their situation, rather these men and women have returned to the communities they were fighting for and defending, to make their communities better. These ex- prisoner groups we support continue to need our help to overcome decades of injustice and prejudice.
Consider giving because: there are ex Irish republican prisoners in this country who have never received a peace dividend for supporting the Good Friday Agreement and helping promote peace in the North. These men — even after living in this country for over two decades as model citizens, without a mark on their records, having paid taxes and raised children who are American citizens — still live with the uncertainty of never knowing when and if they could be denied continued residence. They need our continued support.
Consider giving because: there are more children in the North of Ireland today speaking the Irish language than there has been in generations. Despite the best efforts by those who continue to use subtle forms of discrimination, the Irish language is experiencing a revival in the North. The groups we support are helping continue this renaissance.
Consider giving because: a society that is evolving from over three decades of war needs support to overcome some of the collateral damage of those times. We have supported community groups who have tried to reduce suicides, fund after-school programs for the most economically deprived and provide counseling for those who still deal with the grief and the loss of many years ago.
Finally, consider giving because: if we don’t, no one else will. The sad fact of the matter is that the great majority of the groups we help do not have many other avenues for funding. This makes the dollars they receive so critical. I do not want to take one penny away from any of the charities we support with our divisions and boards; I only ask that you make it a point this year to give something to the Christmas Appeal. Thank you for your consideration.
Notes: Christmas Appeal packets should be in divisions and boards by the time this edition is published, the packet will also be available online in a PDF at www.aoh.com , then from the left hand side of page choose national programs, then choose Freedom for All Ireland… Included in the packet and online will be information on the 2012 Trip to the North (formerly Bloody Sunday Tour)…. Thanks to all those divisions that donated over $1,000 to last year’s appeal for your patience in receiving your recognition award. The company that had provided the customized hurling sticks went out of business unexpectedly. All $1,000 donors have received a beautiful framed print entitled Vindicated, Bloody Sunday. A very limited amount of prints ($25) and framed prints ($75) will be available for purchase the weekend of the National President’s dinner. To reserve your copy email firstname.lastname@example.org ….Many thanks to the Brothers and Sisters in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland who invited me to their conventions to give the FFAI/Christmas appeal presentation ….Congratulations to Clara Reilly, the Sean MacBride award winner.