WHEN her working week was cut due to Covid-19, Ricky Ryan, of Youghal, decided to use those extra hours in aid of a very worthy cause.
Ricky, a mother of three, who works outside the home, is now triple-jobbing. She volunteers for Youghal Meals on Wheels, driving and delivering meals to people feeding community spirit.
“When my working week was cut due to Covid, I was conscious of all the dedicated volunteers working on the frontline,” says Ricky.
“I decided to offer my services to various places in the city, having more time on my hands. But they were already full to capacity. I saw where Youghal Meals on Wheels were looking for people and I contacted the organiser and then came on board.”
Ricky, gifting her time to brighten up the day of people who are isolated, vulnerable and, often lonely, is going above and beyond the call of duty. She is one of a fit team of 11 Youghal ladies and one Mayo lady who will run 1,100 miles in the month of November to pay for 1,100 meals.
All they are asking for is for people to donate €4 which will cover the cost of one meal. Every euro raised goes directly to Youghal Meals on Wheels.
“I’m in Youghal Athletics Club since 2003,” says Ricky. “I run all the time.”
Their goal is to raise €4,400, which pays for the 1,100 meals on wheels which will be delivered during the month of December.
Christmas will come early for the people who avail of Youghal Meals on Wheels then?
“I floated the idea of the fundraiser to my running buddy, Louise Phelan,” says Ricky.
“We did the virtual Dublin City Marathon together on the October bank holiday weekend.
“I asked her; what do you think of this?” says Ricky.
Louise didn’t run for the hills.
“She was laughing, but she was game ball.”
Ricky doesn’t hang about when she wants to get things done.
“Action is taken and it’s done!”
Ricky used her powers of persuasion to get others on board to help make December a happier month for people struggling with lockdown and the social restrictions due to Covid-19 all year.
“I recruited a group of girls to get running,” says Ricky.
These were no ordinary girls.
“They are a bunch of super-duper women who are willing to go above and beyond to help raise the target to pay for 1,100 meals for the month of December,” says Ricky.
“Everybody that Youghal Meals on Wheels deliver to pays €4 per meal,” says Ricky.
“The hot meals are freshly and professionally prepared by Jean Francois and his staff at Le Gourmet, Main Street, Youghal.
“Meals on Wheels make 30 deliveries three times a week in the Youghal/Castlemartyr area, taking in three routes.”
Ricky meets a lot of people en route who are delighted to see her calling to them.
“During lockdown with more elderly people cocooning, more people availed of the Youghal Meals on Wheels service,” says Ricky.
“For the most part, our clients are elderly people living alone, people with special needs, or people who don’t have the ability to cater for themselves. Everyone is delighted to see us when we arrive at the door.”
Loneliness has been recognised as a serious health risk in these challenging times.
“Being out and about, you realise that some of these people who are isolated and lonely hardly ever have any human contact,” says Ricky.
“Sometimes we are the only people they see or speak to all week.”
Being home alone for long periods is a lonely station.
“There is a lady I call to who sits by her bay window looking out,” says Ricky.
“When she sees me coming she has a beaming smile. She is up and out of the chair to welcome me. I leave her hot meal on the hall table and we have a chat about whether she is having a good day or a bad day.”
Ricky makes it a better day.
“I ask her, ‘what can I do for you?’” says Ricky.
“The lady needed coal, so I told her I would organise that for her. There’s a coal man just up the road from her and I asked him to deliver five bags of coal to the lady’s house.”
Often a chat and a bit of company warms people’s hearts.
“A bit of a chat and a bit of company means a lot,” says Ricky.
“I try and get round to everyone. When I’m delivering meals to people; I become more aware of them and how lonely they can be. My own parents are in their 80s,” says Ricky, originally from Navan, Co. Meath.
“I’m lucky that my brothers live near them.”
Not everybody has family close by.
“That lady I call to and chat to has no family nearby. Her grand-kids are possibly living far away or living abroad,” say Ricky.
“Not everyone has access to family.”
Not everybody has access to somebody willing to do them a kind deed.
“It’s all good,” says Ricky.
“Some day we might need the service ourselves.”
Ricky’s family thinks she’s mega.
“My girls think volunteering with Meals on Wheels is a good thing to do,” says Ricky.
“I am used to the route and I don’t mind driving and delivering meals by myself. I don’t think of the mileage.”
Ricky thinks of others.
“And instilling the sense that it is not always about ourselves, but try and think of others is a good thing to do. How many people have someone who is unwell or isolated?”
Ricky wants to shine a light a little further into the dimness that Covid has created impinging on people’s lives.
“I think it would be so much nicer if we could exceed our target of €4,400 doing the fundraising run,” says Ricky.
“Then we can make up small hampers or small gifts of Christmas puddings for people when we deliver the meals to them.”
Ricky, clocking up the miles to make Christmas brighter for people, is also clocking up the miles to feed community spirit.
“I’m very fit,” she says. “I’ll take it slow and steady.”
She is fuelled by the thought of making a difference to people in her community.
“I’ll be thinking of the money coming in as I’m clocking the miles!”
Richard Lane, co-ordinater with Youghal Meals on Wheels, says Ricky’s kind gesture is much appreciated.
“Ricky is a fantastic individual and an exceptional volunteer with Youghal Meals on Wheels. It is a vital service in the current climate.
“At the start of Covid we were delivering 70 meals, this has increased to 230 meals a week in our area, now expanding to Dungourney. Often, our volunteers are the only people that our clients see all day.
“That little bit of attention, five minutes or 10 minutes, makes such a difference to somebody’s day.
“Ricky, like Youghal community health worker, Nicola Lucey, is a driving force behind Youghal Meals on Wheels. If every town in Ireland had a Ricky; it would be a better place!”
To donate see https/gofundme.com/f/run-a-mile-for-a-meal