Centre 'one of Louth's proudest treasures'
Judges are impressed with Louth locations and big community involvement
As his voice trembled in raw emotion, one could hear that the 2018 Pride of Place judge had just 'got' what the Gary Kelly Cancer Support Centre is all about. Donal Connolly looked down at Mrs Claire Kelly and simply remarked, 'your family has done a major service.'
The centre, he was told, was born from a brother's desire to remember his sister and help the people of his home town.
Last week, the Gary Kelly Centre was entered in the 'Well Being' section of the Pride of Place Awards 2018.
As part of the scheme, judges visit the entrants and learn a little bit more about a service, town or village.
Donal and William Beatty left George's Street with the belief that they had truly met Drogheda's heroes .
They were given the history of the place, from the idea, sparked by the sad death of Mandy Weldon, the €750,000 donated by her brother, Gary, from his testimonial to buy the centre and then the stories of plumbers, builders, plasterers, electricians and others who gave their services for nothing to make sure the place opened.
That was 14 years ago and in the days since, the enthusiasm has never wained.
It was revealed that the centre gets just €29,000 in state funding each year, the rest of the €320,000 needed to run the place taken in via fundraising.
With the number of people using the free service set to hit the 8,000 mark this year, the need for the centre has never been greater.
Chairperson Niall Reynolds said that the centre was a 'safe haven' for people who can just walk in, no appointment necessary, no referral, and a cup of tea will be waiting for you too.
He himself is the Community Welfare Officer for the centre and that has improved vital for many worried people who call in, not knowing how their cancer diagnosis is going to impact on them.
Ann Treacy from the centre said they were accepted by everyone in the community, from farmers to the GAA to the Defence Forces and children with their First Communion money still come in to donate.
'I am humbled that people get behind us and ourvolunteers are the cornerstone.'
Aileen Emery said that 40,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year and the centre was vital for people and families 'living with and beyond cancer.'
The service provides everything, from oncology nurses to a physio, counsellors and legal advice, all free. A new community based programme with a gym service begins shortly, thanks to the GK Gym.
Chairperson of Louth CC, Liam Reilly, said they were delighted to showcase the centre and the role it plays in the community. 'It is one of Louth's proudest treasures.' he added.
Judge Donal Connolly said he was 'amazed' by the fundraising volume and in all his travels has rarely seen an organisation operate on a budget with less than 10% from state aid.
'We see the best of community support around the country and this is certainly at the upper end,' he stated.
Collon comes alive
The judges spent last Tuesday morning in the village of Collon, which was also entered in the Pride of Place.
Up to 30 people were at the launch presentation at Collon Church of Ireland, and hundreds at the closing event at Mattock Rangers.
In between, the judges got to see the likes of the Pitch and Putt club, visited Fr Brendan and the monks in Collon, looked around the square and the old schoolhouse, saw the delights of Collon House before a poignant look at the memorial to Sgt Morrissey outside the garda station.
They also got to chat to Ann Marie Martin at Collon NS.
The overall view was that Collon did itself proud.
Seamus Roe, Michael Reid and John Rountree wrote a 12 page booklet, with photographs which was very well produced by Patrice Keenan of LCC.
Michael Reid and Seamus with John did a lot of the presentation on the day.
Cllr Dolores Minogue this week praised the people of Collon for their efforts and hoped they'd do very well in the competition.