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North Cork branch of MS Ireland faces being wound down as volunteer membership hits all time low

Many things have changed in the landscape over the past few years and we have adapted to continue to provide supports for the MS community. However, we cannot do what we do without our volunteers’.

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Mary Lonergan, (far right) chair of MS Ireland Fermoy branch with volunteers at last year’s Father’s Day fundraising walk.

Mary Lonergan, (far right) chair of MS Ireland Fermoy branch with volunteers at last year’s Father’s Day fundraising walk.

Mary Lonergan, (far right) chair of MS Ireland Fermoy branch with volunteers at last year’s Father’s Day fundraising walk.

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THE chair of Fermoy branch of Multiple Sclerosis Ireland (MSI) has warned they face the stark possibility of winding down the group unless they can urgently recruit more volunteers.

The branch was established in the late 1970’s when a group of friends with the aim of supporting people with Multiple Sclerosis.

“Our mission is to enable and empower people affected by multiple sclerosis to live the life of their choice to their fullest potential,” said branch chair Mary Lonergan.

Over the intervening years the branch has put in place various supports including providing individual supports for people with the condition and their families, ‘Living with MS’ programmes, counselling and financial assistance as well as holding social events and activities.

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Mary Lonergan said that like many other charitable organisations, they found 2022 to be a challenging year as the country emerged from the Covid pandemic, particularly in terms of raising badly needed money to fund their services.

“The pandemic had a huge impact on our fundraising streams, forcing the cancellation of events such as our flag days and church gate collections,” said Mary.

“Voluntary branches rely on the generosity of the local community, with all monies raised locally spent locally. However, our fundraising streams were hit hard during the pandemic and have not really recovered since,” she added.

One event that did return in person last year was their Father’s Day ‘Galtee Walk’, which has been their main annual fundraiser for more than four-decades.

While they were able to hold ‘virtual’ walks over the course of the pandemic, lockdown did result in the branch losing volunteer members.

“Many things have changed in the landscape over the past few years and we have adapted to continue to provide supports for the MS community. However, we cannot do what we do without our volunteers. The time and effort put in by them is critical to the work we do locally,” said Mary.

“Now we find ourselves facing possibly our greatest ever challenge, in that we are having great difficulty in securing the help of volunteers and filling the roles of officer ships in the local branch. If we cannot do this the branch will fold in February and will no longer exist in the locality. That would be a very sad day for the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the people we serve in north and east Cork,” she added.

Mary appealed for new volunteers to join the branch and help out with their work “in any way that they can”, be that through fundraising or working alongside their members.

“If there is anyone reading this that might be in a position to assist us they are more than welcome to come to our AGM on February 19 in the Anderson Centre, O’Neill Crowley Quay, Fermoy,” said Mary.

“Anyone unable to attend the AGM can contact me on 087-668 2834 or email msi.fermoy@gmail.com. The local committee meet on the first Monday of each month and if you choose to come join us you will receive the warmest of welcomes,” she added.

People can also make a donation to support the work of the Fermoy MSI branch at https://mysplink.com/msireland/msfermoybranch.”


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