A Wexford woman who has given a half century of service to the less well-off in her local community, was honoured at a surprise ceremony attended by national and regional officers of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Kitty Hynes of Mary Street was one of the first women to join the organisation in 1968 as a young mother who still found the time to help others who were homeless or struggling to make ends meet.
The main room in St. Michael's Hall which she helped re-build following a fire has been named the Kitty Hynes Auditorium in her honour.
It was Kitty's late brother Kevin, also involved in the charity, who suggested that she join and at the time, she was only the second woman admitted to what was then a predominantly male organisation - fast forward 50 years and the female volunteers in the Wexford branch of the St. Vincent de Paul Society now outnumber the men. She worked alongside Kitty Hayes who was the first Wexford woman to join.
The surprise presentation of a 50-year Service Medal and Certificate was made to Kitty by Area President Annette Beckett at the conclusion of a Mass for deceased members in St. Michael's Hall which was celebrated by the chaplain Fr. Aodhan Marken,. Extra seats had to be brought in because so many people turned up to wish her well, indicating the affection and respect in which she is held among the membership.
Kitty had no clue that she was the guest of honour at the special event and was shocked and delighted when Ms. Beckett announced that apart from the Mass, they were also there to honour one of their members for giving 50 years of her life to the organisation. Not usually lost for words, Kitty seemed taken aback at being the centre of attention.
The Area President gave a resume of Kitty's long and dedicated contribution which began in the women's hostel formerly run by the Society in Frances Street which closed down following the opening of Wexford Women's Refuge and is now leased to Pieta House.
She worked in the Society's charity shop from its establishment about 24 years ago as a free clothing outlet based at the hostel in Frances Street, later moving to a premises in St. Peter's Square and eventually to Selskar where the successful Vincents outlet has been based for several years. Along with other volunteers, Kitty was instrumental in the relocation of the shop to Selskar and the major refurbishment of the building.
She was involved in the early days of the Ozanam House hostel for homeless men and the building of a brand new hostel on the same site behind St. Michael's Hall, helping to secure Government grants and support from national headquarters.
She was instrumental in the re-building of St. Michael's Hall in Green Street which was damaged by fire, also helping to secure funding for the project. Rooms are now rented at a reasonable rate to community groups such as Ballycogley Players and Camross Drama Group who stage shows in the main hall which was re-dedicated to the Wexford woman and named the Kitty Hynes Auditorium.
Kitty also took on the re-opening of Carne Holiday Centre which closed down after becoming dilapidated and with the help of fellow volunteers, set about having it upgraded. The facility is now booked out for most of the year by groups of people from around Ireland who might not otherwise afford a holiday.
During the past 50 years, Kitty has served periods of time as Area President, President of the Shop Conference, President of the Hall Committee and President of the Carne Conference.
The Area President Ms. Beckett also paid tribute to Kitty's family including her husband Tony for their support. Kitty first became involved at a time when there was no central hall in Wexford and people would often call to her door looking for help. Times were tough and she witnessed many hardships - one Christmas day, she delivered a dinner to a woman living in a tent on Wexford Racecourse.
The National President Kieran Stafford travelled to Wexford for the presentation and paid tribute to Kitty for her dedication to the charity.
The Regional President Ben Doyle also comgratulated her on her long service as did the South East Coordinator David O'Neill.
Volunteers in the charity shop marked the occasion by presenting her with a piece of jewellery and a bouquet of flowers.