When the 18th century Irish settled in America, it wasn’t long before they formed organizations to aid those who came after them. The first organization (that was recorded) was called the Charitable Irish Society and was formed on St. Patrick’s Day in 1737 in Boston. Their purpose was two fold: First: to cultivate a spirit of unity and harmony among all resident Irish and their descendants in the Massachusetts Colony and to advocate socially and morally the interests of the Irish people and their cultural heritage. Second: to alleviate suffering, and to aid such of its members or other worthy recipients as by the vicissitudes of fortune might be deserving of its charity. (From: http://www.charitableirishsociety.org/ )
Soon to follow was the Ancient and Most Benevolent Order of the Friendly Brothers of Saint Patrick founded in New York in 1767 and the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick for the Relief of Emigrants from Ireland founded in 1771 in Philadelphia. http://www.friendlysons.com/
An interesting thing to note is that these early organizations did not discriminate according to religious affiliation. In fact, these particular groups still don't. According to the Friendly Son's web site: The Society has always been non-denominational, welcoming members from all religious backgrounds. Citizens of the United States of Irish lineage, over eighteen years of age and of good moral character are eligible for membership. (It is an organization for men only, however.)
There are many charitable groups based on heritage, and some are Protestant and some Catholic, so that surprised me to discover that this idea was not originally sectarian. I did, however, discover in my research that some of the charity groups for immigrants that were run by the church offered help to anyone, whether they attended the group's church of choice or another one.
Does anyone else find that interesting given Irish history?