CARRIGALINE, the largest town in Cork, on the River Owenabue, boasting a population of 15,770, is still fondly known as ‘The Village’ by its residents.
It has grown rapidly, from a few hundred people in the late 20th century to a thriving commuter town, boasting twinning agreements with the commune of Guidel in Brittany and the town of Kircheeon in Bavaria, Germany.
The welcome hand of friendship and support is alive and well much nearer home, in the Carrigaline Family Support Centre, on Church Road, which offers a range of family support and community health programmes.
“We opened in May, 2008,” says Tina Sheehan, who is manager of the support centre.
“So we are just over 10 years old. We cater for everyone from 0 to 100. Over 100 is good too!
“We cover Carrigaline and the Lower Harbour area which includes Passage West, Crosshaven, Minane Bridge, Ringaskiddy, and its environs.”
The centre offers a drop-in service where people are welcome to call in for a chat and a cup of tea.
“The doors are always open,” says Tina. “We can listen to the person who may have an issue, discuss the options with them and signpost them to link in with the relevant services.”
Some of the issues people struggle with are not new ones.
“Financial issues, parenting issues, housing; these are all old and modern-day concerns that people have,” says Tina.
“We never know what’s coming through the door. Our team of trained counsellors are a great addition to the centre. 30 volunteers work here and seven new ones are starting with us.”
The group of concerned parents, conscious of the needs of the growing community and the lack of supports and services they required, came together in the setting up of a family resource centre.
“A group of people, including a lady from the HSE, approached me to form a committee,” says founding member, Mary O’Keefe.
“An analysis was done on the area and our first meeting was in a portable building at the back of the parish centre. We met once a month as a community group, Sr Noreen Foster and Fr Bertie O’Mahoney were two of our first members.
“We noticed requests and dealt with enquiries. We acquired a premises, Wiley House, on the main street and we employed a co-ordinater, Wendy McGarry, who as administrator, was able to facilitate and deal with demands and access information about available relevant services. Individuals in the town dropped in to talk to Wendy and they had a cup of tea and a chat while getting help in assessing the services they required. Wendy was able to guide them in the right direction.
“Luckily we got funding from the HSE, otherwise we would have to close the doors.”
From small acorns, oak trees grow, and in September, 2015, the Carrigaline Family Support Centre opened at Carrigaline Lions Youth Centre in Church Road.
“It has been wonderful to be here and see it grow,” says Mary, who works as a volunteer at the centre.
“The influx of new people who moved here often led to a sense of isolation when they didn’t know their neighbours. Loneliness was, and is, an issue for young people too. Here, they can find support and like-minded people, in our parenting programmes, the befriending service, the social women’s group, or just in the social gatherings we have for families.
“It is all about helping people find their footing. The befriending service has provided a lifeline for many people,” says Mary.
The service is a weekly visit from a friendly face to help alleviate the negative impacts loneliness can have on mental and physical health.
“The enthusiasm is just incredible and valuable friendships and connections are made.
“The women’s group is made of all nationalities. Sharing skill-sets is a huge advantage and often, the women come forward as volunteers.
“For our summer picnic day for families, which was a great success, everyone was delighted to chip in, having good, old-fashioned fun.”
Carrigaline Family Resource Centre is a one-stop shop for young and old alike.
“The over 60s have a vibrant social and health club here,” says Mary. “Bingo, afternoon tea, dancing, quizzes and movies are all on the cards.”
Help is on the cards too.
“Yes, we offer a care and repair service, where our volunteers carry out small or minor jobs free of charge for older people who find it difficult to do these jobs themselves.
“The client buys the materials and we send the volunteer, who is garda-vetted, to their home to do the domestic job.
“Age Action provided carbon monoxide alarms for free and our volunteers will install them in the appropriate homes.”
There is an escort service too.
“There is!” says Tina. “It is the travel assisted programme for medical appointments. Our volunteer drivers and the community bus are on hand to bring elderly or infirm people to their hospital appointments.
“One lady, who felt embarrassed, asked me; ‘where do you pay?’ I told her there was no payment wanted and she was both delighted and amazed!”
New friendships spring up.
“Driver and passenger often make friends with each other,” says Tina. “The driver is a reassuring presence for those who might be nervous going to hospital. A familiar face is comforting.”
Human interaction is healthy.
“And the volunteer driver service is a form of welcome human contact for people who might be lonely,” says Tina. “One of our volunteer drivers travels all the way from Conna. The centre provides great opportunities for people to work together for the good of the community.”
And the centre is a great meeting-place.
“People can feel lonely, even in a big, vibrant town,” says Tina.
“Here, we can help combat loneliness and offer people a helping hand.”
And they can offer a welcome cuppa.
“That’s always important!” says Tina.
The Family Support Centre, Carrigaline, have developed an extensive range of support and social programmes over the years addressing a number of family and community issues including:
*Parenting Mentor Support, (0-3 years)
*Teen Parent Support
*Support for Carers
*Affordable Short term Counselling and Play Therapy
*Health and Social Programmes for the Over 60’s
*Care and Repair and befriending Service for the Elderly
*Life Skills and Educational Services
*Women Supporting Women Group
*Social Gatherings for Families
Opening hours: Monday-Thursday, 9am-5pm Friday, 9am-4pm