Anna-Marie Delaney, Chief Executive Offaly County Council; Margaret Murphy, Manager, Tullamore Community & Family Resource Centre; Cllr Declan Harvey, Cathaoirleach Offaly County Council; Minister Fr
LAST week Frank Feighan T.D., Minister of State for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy visited three Healthy Ireland funded projects in Offaly to see how this funding has made a difference to groups in the communities they serve.
On Monday September 27 Minister Feighan visited Moneygall Community Garden. Also present was Chief Executive Anna-Marie Delaney, Cllr John Clendennen, various Offaly County Council Staff and representatives from the Community Garden group.
The Community Garden was built in response to a community survey and out of a genuine interest in health and sustainable living in the local rural community. Moneygall Development Association secured a lease on the site for the garden from Moneygall F.C. and the group commenced with planning and funding applications. Thanks to funding secured from various sources the Garden commenced construction in July 2018.
The support for developing the garden was strong especially as it was an important new asset for the community. It appealed to people of all ages and abilities to use the site for the benefit of the community and the volunteers who were going to operate it. Recently funding secured under Strand 1 Round 3 of the Healthy Ireland Programme has delivered additional funding to expand the work undertaken. The Minister thanked the group for the invitation to visit the project, and said he was ‘very impressed with the work of the Garden volunteers, especially the innovations like the water harvesting system and the numerous health, social and educational benefits of the project’. Chief Executive of Offaly County Council stated that ‘Moneygall is a thriving community with the skills and experience to leverage key funding streams to further develop their area and groups like Moneygall Community Garden have an excellent working relationship with Offaly County Council which we hope continues well into the future’.
The following day, Tuesday, September 28 the Minister visited Tullamore Family Resource Centre in Tullamore. Both Margaret Murphy, Manager of Arden View FRC and Liz Fleming, Clara FRC were in attendance to welcome the Minister and explain about the work of the Family Resource Centres and how important Healthy Ireland funding has been to enabling their work. Also welcoming the Minister was Anna-Marie Delaney, Chief Executive Offaly County Council; Cllr Declan Harvey, Cathaoirleach, Offaly County Council and various staff and board members of the centre.
Both Tullamore and Clara FRC’s were established to promote and operate a community development family support programme. They act as a focus and catalyst for community development/family support for the community and surrounding areas, with a view to promoting social, family, economic and cultural welfare and particularly to empower specific disadvantaged groups to effectively participate in a programme of personal and social development.
Both Family Resource Centre Managers acknowledged the importance of the funding from Healthy Ireland to the critical counselling intervention work undertaken during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and discussed how this funding made such a difference to their service users. The Minister reflected on the Healthy Ireland fund administered from his Department and how this was the positive side in an otherwise very busy portfolio. Minister Feighan commended the work of both Family Resource Centres when he said ‘Tullamore and Clara Family Resource Centres are making maximum use of the funding they’ve received especially in challenging times and that’s very encouraging to see’.
The final stop on a busy day for the Minister and his staff was a visit to the ‘Meals on Wheels’ project in St. Joseph’s Community Centre, Kilcormac. The project is jointly delivered by Kilcormac Development Association and Offaly Local Development Company. On hand to welcome the Minister was Linda Kelly, Manager, St. Joseph’s Community Centre, Cllr John Leahy, Chairperson of Kilcormac Development Association, and key members of staff from the Centre.
The Meals on Wheels Service is certainly one of the most successful projects that the KDA have taken on over the last number of years. Kilcormac Meals on Wheels commenced with their first delivery on the 6th of February 2012 and it has gone from strength to strength. Among its many benefits is the support it provides to members of the community to live independently.
The Meals on Wheels service is a programme which delivers hot nutritious meals to older people living in the community or people who otherwise are unable to prepare or purchase their own meals. The Meals on Wheels service had originally been available in Kilcormac, Ballyboy, Rath, Mountbolus, Killoughey, Kinnitty and Cadamstown areas. However, KDA can now offer an expanded service to those who may need hot meals delivered in much of South & West Offaly. This newly expanded service is provided with the help of Offaly Local Development Company (OLDC) & Homefix who assist with the delivery of the meals.
The expanded service now includes the wider Birr, Shinrone, Clareen and Coolderry areas and is run from the kitchen in St. Joseph's Community Centre. Meals are delivered three times a week on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Food is sourced locally and cooked fresh daily in the Centre’s purpose built kitchen. It is cooked to perfection by the staff in a professionally equipped kitchen. Drivers then deliver the dinners to clients and payment is usually collected on the Friday of each week or can be paid daily depending on particular preferences. A cooling dinners service is also available and can be kept refrigerated over-night for use the following day.
Sharon Kennedy, Director of Services, Offaly County Council briefed the Minister on the importance of supporting projects such as the Meals on Wheels Service. She stated ‘the Community Call Helpline was established in record time literally overnight at the beginning of the Covid crisis. With the cooperation of many community organisations such as the GAA, the HSE, An Garda Siochana, Offaly Local Development Company, and many others the Helpline helped mitigate the difficulties and dangers to the vulnerable members of communities in Offaly’.
The Minister stated ‘how impressed he was by all the tremendous work, not only Meals on Wheels, but by the many other community services being delivered by Kilcormac Development Association’ and went on to say that ‘the excellent work of the group and mentioned that the innovative work practices he has witnessed on his visit to the service would be brought back with him to share with Community Groups in his own Constituency’.
The Minister made his way back to Dublin that evening with the good wishes from those communities he met, going with him.
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