THE new Cork ARC Cancer Support House, located on 8,000 square feet at Sarsfield House, Wilton, could well be ‘House of the Year’, but it represents a ‘House of the Future’.
ARC House supports those living with cancer and those who care for them.
“Our new premises are like a dream come true,” says Cork ARC CEO, Aileen O’Neill.
“For decades to come, we will be very happy here.
“It is a massive upgrade, giving us more flexibility to deliver our services to the people of Cork.
“The demand for our service has grown and grown since we opened in Cliffdale in 2003,” adds Aileen.
“Now, with the larger premises, waiting times for people availing of the services we provide will be considerably lessened and we won’t have to juggle appointments around as much.”
Since ARC House was set up, cancer has increased by 7% per year.
Sarsfield House offers more much-needed space, privacy and potential for Cork ARC — it will be a benchmark centre of excellence for the provision of non-clinical cancer support in Ireland.
The ‘Make Room for Cork ARC’ campaign has been launched, supported by Casey’s furniture in partnership with Cork County Council.
Money raised from #Room4ARC will help make the move from Cliffdale at O’Donovan Rossa Avenue, the original ARC House, and transfer operations to the new address, where they can deliver new and innovative services.
An impressive banner highlighting the campaign, on Grand Parade, Cork, features the symbol of the fundraising campaign — the purple couch. The couch was sourced and donated to the campaign by Casey’s furniture, representing the essence of what ARC House offers — a quiet room and a comfortable, safe place away from the disorder caused by a cancer diagnosis.
Sarsfield House has been refurbished at a cost of €1.6 million.
Aileen explains: “Summerhill Construction began work in February this year. We believed the project would take a year. Now our phone support services are commencing from the new premises from Monday, September 2. It is unreal!
“By September 5, our superb 70 volunteers will be well settled in. The level of service our professional team bring, the oncology nurses and trained counsellors, is mirrored by our volunteers who are all well matched to the service.”
The doorbell leading to the purple door into the inner sanctum is always the first important point of contact at ARC House that leads to solace and consolation for people on a cancer journey.
“Cliffdale is so homely. People ring the doorbell and they are sorted. The essence of that is always with us,” says Aileen.
While Aileen and the team are sad to be saying farewell to Cliffdale, where so many people sought valuable support and care, a new era is dawning for ARC House Cork.
“Nobody likes change,” says volunteer, Ann Mcilraith, from Mallow, who teaches Tai Chi at ARC House. “Cliffdale was home-from-home across from UCC, my old alma mater. It will take time to re-adjust, getting used to the beautiful rooms and parking space. The bigger space in Sarsfield House will benefit so many people.”
Cliffdale, offering one-to-one support and complementary therapies, and always a listening ear, has provided a home-from-home for many Cork people since 2003. Sarsfield House will do the same.
“An extension of Cliffdale was never going to be suitable,” says Aileen.
“It wouldn’t get us the space we have here, where all our free services can be provided under one roof.
“We had to look to the future and when our trustees were looking at options for a long time — Sarsfield House with so much potential, was deemed an excellent choice for the new premises.”
A TOUR OF THE FACILITY
When I arrive for the grand tour of Sarsfield House, the new plush office furniture is arriving too.
“Meadows & Byrne donated all the furnishings for the client spaces which was a huge boost for us and a continuation of a long legacy of support going back to the very first days of our opening at Cliffdale when they provided furniture for us then too,” says Aileen.
A smiling Mark O’Regan, from Kilmoney Electrical, is installing the all important doorbell.
“Our building contractors, Summerhill Construction, our IT contractors and the electricians are a lovely bunch of people to work with; so pleasant and obliging,” says Aileen.
“Meítheal Design Partners, architects, and director, Helen O’Brien, from Meadows & Byrne, worked very well together. And they worked very well with us.”
Visitors calling to the new Cork ARC Cancer Support House in Wilton will get the royal treatment.
“They’ll be guided in, sat down on a comfy soft chair, or the purple sofa, and offered a welcoming cup of tea,” says Aileen.
The waiting room, or ‘drop in’, is bright and cheerful, decorated in shades of cool greys and creams.
Inside, the inner sanctum for private conversations has three booths where people can talk in complete confidence.
“The flooring is of the highest quality,” says Aileen.
“The acoustic element was well thought out and there is extra insulation installed behind the panels in the walls, which were stripped back to bricks. And there is another new space available here for people who may be distressed and require absolute privacy.”
The new Cork ARC House is accessible for everybody.
“Disabled loos are in-built into the three bathroom cubicles. The fund-raising team are not separate to the team any more. The entire crew will be on site for the first time, bringing its own benefits.”
Tricia Arnold, administrator, is happy to have her new state-of the-art office. The kitchen with cheerful sky blue units is right next door.
“It is a happy office!” says Tricia.
“The kitchen is central to the daily lives of the staff and the volunteers who share and support each other. It is a sociable place,” she adds.
There is an added bonus.
“We never had an oven before! Now we can provide hot mini-bites of food for people.”
The team are delighted with the storage space built in along the plush corridors downstairs and upstairs.
“It’s great for the therapists who can store their rugs or blankets and other equipment on the big shelves in the store cupboards.”
There is even more room for sociability upstairs where the soft moss green carpet underfoot lends an air of safety and security.
“Now we can bring the community to us,” says Aileen, proudly showing me the big sun-lit meeting room where groups can come together for meetings or classes.
“We can cater for separate groups in here and the possibilities are wide open.”
The element of nature adds to the calming therapy rooms situated along the private corridor looking out onto a tree-lined avenue. The three large spacious rooms are tranquil and soothing.
“They have gorgeous aspects,” agrees Aileen.
“People can come here, to these therapy rooms, taking the time they need to dis-engage where the outside world doesn’t exist. The dedicated counselling room opposite is specially designed for privacy.
“The two offices alongside are for our professional team and for our Director of Services. People who come to ARC House may often want counselling or need financial advice about Social Welfare Support.
“They can talk in these rooms to our professionals, uninterrupted. That is something we couldn’t provide at Cliffdale.”
Accessible parking facilities are something new for ARC House too.
The discreet fire-escape is tucked tidily at the end of the upstairs corridor which houses more spacious accessible bathroom facilities.
“Free parking here is a huge plus,” says Tricia, who is on tour of the house with us.
“And there is a bus-stop right across the road servicing CUH too.”
Aileen will have a nice view of the world in her new office.
“Number 5 is my room!” says Aileen, swinging open the office door and throwing beams of light from floor to ceiling.
The game-changer is the magnificent conference room that can seat up to 100 people.
“Now, this isn’t our piece de resistance,” says Aileen, taking in my wide-eyed expression of admiration.
“That’s our teen and young adult room which we are really excited about.
“But here, we can host meetings and conferences and again, bring in the wider community to ARC House, holding yoga or art therapy classes. So yes, it is a game-changer.
“The room can be divided in two by a folding door depending on numbers and wall screens will be mounted. It’s really hi-tech and this room will offer massive opportunities like staff training, which we previously had to do off-site.”
I’m waiting with bated breath to see the piece de resistánce.
“This room for teens and young adults doesn’t exist outside Dublin,” says Aileen, slowly opening the final door in the massive building.
“It was the vision of Professor Seamus O’Reilly. The décor is creative and colourful, making it unique.”
Indeed, the cream and mustard hues make for a perfect hang-out room for young adults. The comfy bean-bags strewn across the room are cool and inviting.
“Look above you,” says Aileen, smiling.
The wooden balustrade gallery, creating a fabulous space, is amazing and it is easy to see how friendships could flourish in this room, specially designed for young people being together in mind.
Professor O’Reilly says his patients tell him that company and sociability are important.
“My patients tell me cancer can be a lonely illness,” he says “Making cancer less lonely improves outcomes.
“We’ve now outgrown the physical infrastructure of our current building. Sarsfield House will provide a more 21st century appropriate infrastructure so we can better deliver the services that we know will have an impact on the lives of people with cancer-that is our mission.”
With the grand tour over, it is time for tea. And heading to the new sky blue kitchen next to the ‘happy’ office, it is clear that nobody on a cancer journey need ever feel lonely with Sarsfield House ready to embrace them.
All services provided by Cork ARC Cancer Support House are free of charge.
To support the campaign, visit www.room4arc.ie
Direct donations are welcomed alongside opportunities for corporate support and community fundraising.