Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Volunteerism in Athy

I wrote in Eye on the Past No. 1174 of volunteerism and of the many men and women in and around Athy who with advantage to themselves and to the voluntary sector make themselves available for voluntary work within their local community. I mentioned then the local Heritage Centre which was looking for volunteers willing to make themselves available for a few hours each week to help staff exhibitions in the Town Hall Centre. There was a good response to that request and I was reminded to put out the call again for volunteers to do some voluntary work on a regular basis in our local community. There are a large number of local organisations staffed by volunteers which one could join. For instance, the local St. Vincent de Paul Society which I regard as one of the most important voluntary organisations in the town does extraordinary good work assisting families who are experiencing difficult times. The members of the Society organise an annual collection in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The monies collected are but a small proportion of the Society’s outlay in helping local families in distress. The St. Vincent de Paul Society relies not only on the annual collection but also on the continuing generosity of families at local and national level who are in a position to help to alleviate the hardships endured by less well-off families. The Society meets weekly and operates a charity shop in William Street. I was in Geraldine Park last Thursday evening for a young girls football match between Athy Gaelic Football Club and the arch enemy of old, Castlemitchell Gaelic Football Club. Times have changed, not only in terms of the now friendly relationship between local clubs, but also insofar as the once male dominated sport, at junior level at least, is attracting increasing participation from young girls. Looking after the young players involves a huge commitment from parents and GAA club officials alike and the latter particularly deserve our praise for their unstinted voluntary commitment. There are many other examples of local boys and girls, men and women, giving of their time and working behind the scenes for local clubs or for the good of the local community. One group whose work is very much in the public eye, but whom I feel are nevertheless not as appreciated as they should be, is the Tidy Towns Committee. How often have I seen those volunteers at evening time armed with sweeping brushes and shovels working away tending to public areas in the town and cleaning up the litter which if left unattended would disfigure so many of our local neighbourhoods. The current Tidy Towns Committee has been in existence since its reorganisation in 1997. Indeed, Tidy Towns Committees in Athy go back to a time when I was a member of Athy Urban District Council and it was one of several committees established at that time to promote the wellbeing of the local community. The very first Tidy Towns Committee worked under the chairmanship of Dr. John Macdougald. The present Committee operates under the chairmanship of Ger Kelly and he is ably assisted by members of the committee, including Hilary May, Brendan Moloney, Patricia Berry, Martin Donnelly and Brian Fitzpatrick. The Tidy Towns volunteers meet in Emily Square at 7.00 p.m. every Friday and from there start their work on your and my behalf to clean up areas which need attention. Called the ‘Tidy Towns Committee’ their work has resulted in a huge improvement in the appearance of the town and the approach roads to Athy. However, much work remains to be done and more volunteers are needed. If you are in a position to help why not drop down to Emily Square next Friday at 7.00 p.m. I gather anyone turning up to do some voluntary work will be very welcome. The success of the Tidy Towns Committee’s efforts can be measured by the huge improvements in votes received by Athy in the annual Tidy Towns competition. Athy did not enter the competition in 1996, but did so the following year after the then Town Clerk, Tommy Maddock, with the help and encouragement of others re-established the Tidy Town Committee under the chairmanship of Ger Kelly. Athy’s efforts in 1997 gained 166 points in the National competition. Last year that figure had increased to 274 points, thanks to the work of the committee and the volunteers past and present. The Committee’s work in cleaning up the banks of the River Barrow was the subject of a Millennium Award and a few weeks ago the annual river clean up was again the focus of the volunteer’s work. There are many organisations and clubs in the town staffed and run by volunteers and it is that same type of voluntary work which prompted the Leinster Express in July 1859 to declare ‘there is not in Ireland an inland town which can boast of more public spirit than Athy.’ That spirit is still evident today and the men and women of the local Tidy Towns Committee embody that public spirit which our community cannot do without. When I sat down to write this piece I wondered how many clubs/organisations are there in Athy? There is no directory for the town which one can consult, and its absence prompts a suggestion that there is a need for a town directory.

No comments: