The Rainbow Club Cork Centre for Autism has welcomed back some 160 of its children since reopening two weeks ago and have taken on new staff members to meet demand.
The club recently expanded its offerings thanks to the funds raised through a unique competition run by Cork International Hotel last month.
A total of €40,095 was raised and the club bought two new portable cabins which will cater for groups and free up spaces on the waiting list once restrictions are eased further.
The portable cabins arrived at the club at Mahon Community Centre earlier in the month and have since been kitted out with equipment and toys for the children.
The club has also created two new jobs in order to deal with the demand and is set to hire another two staff members in the coming weeks.
Co-founder of the club, Karen O’Mahony told The Echo that getting used to the new norm since reopening has been an adjustment and that the club is taking children back on a phased basis which should see all children back by September before the schools reopen.
She said that she is “delighted” to be able to create jobs for people locally, and that more staff will be needed in the long term once restrictions are eased and the space at the club can be maximised in order to take families off the waiting list for services.
The two portable cabins are now fully decked out, with one ready to be used to accommodate an extra 120 children once restrictions ease and the other catering for the teenagers of the group.
As it stands, small groups of four children are in a room together at any one given time with a dedicated one-on-one room also available.
Ms O’Mahony said that the staff are buzzing and that there is a great atmosphere with parents being “so cooperative” and the children “doing amazingly, washing and sanitizing their hands”.
She said that it had been an emotional couple of weeks welcoming the children back and seeing them “running through the gates and jumping into your arms”.
The club’s café is also open from 11am to 5pm each day which Ms O’Mahony said has attracted supportive locals who have been “so good” to the club.