SEVEN projects in the Killaloe Ballina area have benefited from LEADER funds in excess of €1.2 million, new figures have revealed.
Not least among the facilities to have benefited from the grants in the LEADER funding period 2014-2020 is the Killaloe Ballina Family Resource Centre (KBFRC).
The Clare Local Development Company has confirmed it led an application for LEADER funding from Clare and Tipperary Local Development Companies, with assistance from Patrick Killeen, which resulted in a total allocation of €216,000 for the upgrading and extension of the KBFRC.
Clare LEADER co-ordinator, Gloria Callinan, said the hard work of Martina Minogue, CLDC rural development officer, ensured KBFRC and also six other projects in Killaloe have been supported, realising almost €600,000 from CLDC, with a matching €600,000 in investment from Tipperary along with community co-funding.
She stated a significant allocation of LEADER funds in excess of €1.2 million has been made in the Killaloe and Ballina communities.
Operating since 2003, the Killaloe Ballina Family Resource Centre employs two full-time and two part-time workers. Every effort is made to support community initiatives and people who need a helping hand in Killaloe and Ballina.
When Covid-19 struck, the Tús scheme was suspended, which previously employed up to eight people in a variety of roles such as maintenance, information technology, administration support, reception and public relations.
The centre has experienced a drop of about €15,000 in the last year due to the absence of fundraising and income gained previously from the use of facilities.
Despite these difficulties, the centre has unveiled plans for a new community café, Men’s Shed, polytunnel, training kitchen and youth spaces as part of a new €400,000 upgrading and extension.
Board chairperson, Gillian Costelloe, who was appointed in the summer of 2020, said members are working on a new strategic development plan for the centre and a new business plan for the community café to ensure it becomes self-sustaining.
“The new facilities will create pathways through various training programmes and activities, which will help empower local people.
“It is very exciting innovative project. We hope it will become a community hub for various activities. This project could be replicated in other centres throughout the country.”
When the recession hit and reduced core funding in 2013, manager, Kees Duson recalled all staff took a 10% pay cut.
When this funding was restored in 2018, staff decided to put this 10% for the first year of pay restoration into the project, which totalled about €17,000.
Plans include a polytunnel to facilitate garden courses and a new Men’s Shed to help men of all ages to socialise and learn new skills.
With the help of funding from Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP), it is expected the new Men’s Shed will have up to five work stations, with tools and equipment for woodwork and small equipment repair.
In addition to a community café, young people can also learn catering skills in a new training kitchen with five or six stations for cookery courses, healthy eating and HACCP courses.
While one night a week may be earmarked as a youth space, the community café will be open to people of all ages during the day.
“What was great about the previous café on the Main Street was people could come in have a coffee and a chat. It is not about making a profit, as all proceeds go back in the centre again.
“Several people have told us if the café wasn’t on the main street, they wouldn’t have known what to do.
“It will also help people to become aware of all the services that are being provided in the centre such as the citizen’s information and money and budgeting advice service, parent and toddler group, counsellor and family support worker.
“A person who might just come in for a cup of tea often goes on to use one of our services.
“People can’t wait for the café to open and for the garden to open,” he said.
Services will also be made available for women.
Rooms will also be available for youth work and small meetings.
The new extension was funded through a grant of €128,000 from the Town and Village Renewal Scheme for extensive building works.
Part of the LEADER funding will be used to provide a new platform lift at the front of the building and other ancillary works to make the centre more accessible for people with disabilities.
A small waiting room will also be built across from the citizens’ information room.
Staff moved into their new premises from Main Street in The Green in 2017, which was previously used by Clarecare, but had become derelict after it was vacated a few years previously.
Mr Duson praised the voluntary work completed during the recent clean-up.
“The amount of work that was done by Eddie O’Gorman and his volunteers was unbelievable. They cleared an overgrown area at the rear of the centre and completed a lot of painting of walls and flower boxes in the courtyard.”
He said this community enhancement group has completed great clean-ups of the graveyard outside Killaloe Cathedral, the Aillebhaun and other locations throughout the town.
While the centre continued to provide services during Covid-19, Mr Duson recalled it was difficult to support people with mental health issues online or over the phone, instead of the traditional face-to-face interaction.
The centre supported the Covid-19 Community Response teams through funding it access from Clare and Tipperary County Councils to ensure those living on their own received vital supplies and medicines.
Once Covid-19 restrictions ease further, he believes their core education and training function will probably be blended with a mixture of online and tutor teaching.
“Covid-19 has given us a focus on mental health services and the social aspect of our work.”
In addition to assistance provided by many volunteers, Mr Duson stressed their board of management, who work on a voluntary basis, continue to complete vital work. Core funding for the centre is provided from Tusla and other overheads are covered through fundraising, services and room hire.
New members were appointed to the board of directors recently. They include community activist, Eddie O’Gorman, Kevin Sheedy, who was previously involved in an art project, retired postman, Michael Quigley, Bobby Reynolds and John McKeogh, who have been active participants in community work.
Having originally come to South-East Clare from America as an au pair, Sarah Beal is another new board member, who is acting as the centre’s public relations’ officer.
Pieta House promoter, Bridie McGrath has also joined the board with treasurer, Ania Wojciechowska.
Former Tús worker and youth worker, Stephen Conroy, is another new board member.
by Dan Danaher