Ireland's only charity dealing with mental health issues around pregnancy and childbirth has a new national headquarters in Skerries after moving out of a family home in Rush where it has seen the organisation grow from an idea in one extraordinary woman's head to a nationwide operation helping hundreds of women and their families, every year.
Irene Lowry is the founder and CEO of Nurture, an organisation that began life in her Rush home with the aim of delivering support to women with post-natal depression but has grown in a short time to deliver services to women suffering from depression around pregnancy, miscarriages and failed IVF treatment.
Trained as a counsellor, Irene set up a practice in Rush some years ago helping all kinds of people with mental health issues and depression. But a meeting with a 29-year-old mother suffering from post-natal depression facing lengthy waiting lists for public treatment and unable to afford private counselling, planted an idea in the Rush woman's head and created Nurture where women in crisis could access quick and affordable counselling and support.
Irene said: 'I started researching the area of post-natal depression and trying to figure out what was it about. I realised there were really no supports in Ireland for it.'
'Within months we had an organisation called Nurture. It is about nurturing the mother, the family and the baby - it is a gentle name I think and it does what it says on the tin as such. Then we had to start thinking about how we would finance it. I borrowed €10,000 and sat down with my husband, Brian, who was more than generous and has been ever since we started. We gave up the bottom part of the house to the charity.'
That is where the charity has been housed ever since, until now. Nurture has grown out of its Rush base and now has a new home in the heart of Skerries, opposite the Little Theatre where the charity has a whole new level of visibility which Irene hopes will help it develop and deliver its services more efficiently.
In the beautiful new surroundings of the Nurture national headquarters in Skerries, Irene told the Fingal Independent: 'We have grown absolutely phenomenally and it was just time to move it out of the family home.
'Also, I have applied for Social Entrepreneur Ireland which I also applied for last year and one of the reasons we were not successful last year was because we were still operating out of the family home.
'We moved it for personal reasons too because my family is stuffed at the moment in terms of the amount of people I have in that house and then we got a grant from the Progressive Credit Union in Balbriggan that has allowed us to move here and pay our first year's rent.
'We also got a grant from the National Office for Suicide Prevention which will cover our second year's rent. So effectively we have two year's rent covered now for our new headquarters here in Skerries.'
Asked what difference the new headquarters will make to the organisation, Irene said: 'What Skerries will offer is a walk-in service for the whole community in Fingal.
'It will have a walk-in support service where we can bring people in and given them a cup of coffee and organise counselling for them which can be one-to-one counselling on site in Skerries or over Skype or telephone support, if they need that. The service is affordable, accessible and we have no waiting lists.'
Irene also hopes the presence of Nurture on a prominent site in the town centre of Skerries will help with the charity's profile.
She said: 'It will raise the profile of Nurture hugely I think. When we are talking to possible corporate partners we can bring them into Skerries and show them the work we do here.
'It gives us a massive presence and we deliberately called it our national headquarters because we are a nationwide organisation now. We have 30 counsellors working with us across the nation and they are committed to the work we do and we are expanding on that and I hope by the end of the year we will have 50 counsellors working with us across the country.'
Irene added: 'The hope is that we can get the message out that we now have a permanent base here in Fingal in a very prominent location and we have already had local people coming into us off the street and asking for help.
'We have a poster up in the window there appealing for volunteers and our location will helps us in that too. We hope that the move will also helps us get more buy-in and support from the local business community and help us find new corporate partners.'
'The main concern for a charity like ourselves that does not have Government funding is resourcing. We need skilled workers to come into Nurture and do the admin work. Our long-term plan is to have skilled and paid workers in these positions to develop the charity.
'People think a charity survives on air but it is a business and we are delivering professional programmes and we need skilled people here answering phones and doing what we need to do to deliver those services. But in the meantime, we need volunteers in some specific areas like administration, fundraising, accounts and PR and marketing.'
The CEO and founder of Nurture they wanted the new headquarters to be as visible as possible to 'lift the taboo and stigmatisation of this area of maternal mental health'. She said: 'It's really important to say that Nurture is the only charity in Ireland doing this work. While there are over 400 suicide prevention charities in the country, only Nurture is doing work in this area.'
If you are interested in fundraising or volunteering for Nurture, contact the organisation on 01 84309390 or email email@example.com and you can find out more about Nurture's work at www.nurturecharity.org