Overgrown weeds and rubble have been replaced by flowers and water features in a patch of overgrown land opposite the Windmill Therapeutic Training Unit in Larkin's Lane at South Main Street, which has been transformed into a beautiful urban oasis garden in the centre of Wexford town.
The strip of land which can be viewed from the Windmill windows, was left after the development of a multi-storey car park in the area and came into the ownership of the Pettitt Group, which purchased the car park and apartments and turned them into the Talbot Suites.
Rosslare hotelier Bill Kelly who is chairman of the board of management of Windmill, approached Des Pettitt who agreed to lease the site to the disability support service for a nominal rent.
Bill went on to organise a fundraising event at Kelly's Bistro which realised over €15,000 towards the project and other Windmill supporters came up with additional money - Kevin Cronin through a cycling event along the Wild Atlantic Way and Mary Ward from the Arizona Ironman - and these along with a number of smaller events boosted the fund to €22,000 with the project costing over €40,000 in total.
Bill Kelly and Michael Ward approached local business owners who agreed to assist with supplies for the garden and this helped to keep the cost down. The names of the benefactors are inscribed on a plaque at the entrance to the garden.
Architect Stephen Carr along with Bill's brother John Paul, the award-winning film designer, drew up plans for the garden while Windmill's own Advocacy Committee designed a mood board to capture the ideas of those attending the service.
Peter Brady of Home Adaptation People started work on the project in July of last year and once all the hard landscaping had been completed, garden designer and landscaper Betty Kehoe of Aisling Designs in Tagoat, came up with a planting plan.
Assisted by helpful staff of Kelly's, she planted up the garden in May of this year and since then, the service users and the staff have been maintaining the garden in top condition.
Windmill now has an additional space which serves as a beautiful extension to the building, featuring a glasshouse, covered space, barbecue, water feature and meandering pathway, allowing those who access the service and the employees to spend quality time outdoors all year round.
The official opening by Mayor of Wexford Tony Dempsey was attended by Peg Dunne, one of the original founders of Windmill in 1988 with John Carroll who was described by the current head of Windmill, Joan MacDonald, as being ahead of his time in establishing a social model of service provision rather than the medical model in use at the time.
'Effectively, what this means is that we put the person first, we focus on ability rather than disability and understand that the people we support are individuals with their unique personality and life goals', said Joan.
'We take seriously and aim to promote the human rights of those we support. Windmill's main aim is to support individuals to take their rightful place as equally valued citizens', she said, acknowledging the staff of Windmill as one of its greatest resources.
Joan thanked TD Brendan Howlin, who attended the garden opening, for helping to secure the building in Larkin's Lane for Windmill back in 1992.
'The building has served us very well in our aim to promote and enable full inclusion, it being central to town and community. Over the years, the demand for the services we provide has grown and indeed providing 40 or more individual services requires physical space', she said.
Joan said she had been eyeing up the neglected space opposite the premises for years and one evening she mentioned it to the very supportive board comprising Maria Meyler, Bill Kelly, Majella Lambert, Patti Keane, Mary Doyle, Ann Barrett, Helen Doyle and Joe O' Leary.
'All I had to do was mention this space - the board discussed it and Bill Kelly spoke with Des Pettitt. And Mr Pettitt very generously offered us this space. Wow', said Joan, thanking the Pettitt family for their support.
Windmill provides a day service for adults with intellectual disabilities from Monday to Friday, as well as offering supports in the evenings and weekends to help individuals develop their personal and practical skills, realise their personal goals and achieve a sense of self-worth and fulfillment.
It adopts a person-centred approach within a social and human rights based model of practice in line with the social policy New Directions, offering
therapeutic training programmes in a safe and stress-free environment conducive to learning and based on mutual respect and equality in which each individual is enabled to grow and develop at their own pace.