Hometown Heroes: Tidy Towns role ‘all about giving back’, says Cork volunteer

Hometown Heroes: Tidy Towns role ‘all about giving back’, says Cork volunteer

Tom Butler, chairman of Ballincollig Tidy Towns at the allotments at Innishmore, Ballincollig Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Ballincollig Tidy Towns Chairperson for the past 20 years, Tom Butler knows a thing or two about helping out - and about flowers.

Volunteering in the local community for 40 years through a myriad of organisations, Tom said Tidy Towns was the one that brought him the most satisfaction.

“There is a great sense of pride in the Tidy Towns committee and the work that we do. It’s not about competition, it’s about giving back to the community.” 

Describing how his role as Tidy Towns chairperson began, Tom said: “I was chairman of a residents association and I went to a Tidy Towns meeting. The organisation was going through a rough patch at the time and I was asked to babysit the group for a few months. 20 years later, I’m still here.” 

When he got involved 20 years ago, Tom said there were just four members, now the organisation has a 12 person committee and around 75 volunteers who litter pick and help out at the Ballincollig Regional Park Allotments where the group look after a range of flowers that they plant and donate.

The Tidy Town’s chairperson said there is a great comradery within the Ballincollig Tidy Towns and within the local community.

Ballincollig has become a friendly community, a sought after place to live and it is good to be involved in making that happen.” 

Chatting about what motivates him to give up his time to help his community, Tom said it’s about making a difference.

While the population of Ballincollig has ballooned in recent years, Tom said the town still holds onto the heart of the ‘village’ it once was.

“It has a type of close-knit community that you would expect to see in small country villages and I enjoy being a part of that.”

Darkness into Light 

The 57-year-old, who was born in Carlow but has been living in Ballincollig the past 35 years after growing up in Bishopstown, is also involved in organising the Darkness into Light fundraiser for Pieta House and has been a member of Scouting Ireland since he was seven.

“I was approached by someone involved in Darkness into Light and asked would I be interested in helping out and I was. It’s all about giving something back. We cannot expect others to do something for us. It is up to each of us to get out there and give back to our club, community, school.”

Tom said after seeing some of the work Pieta House does in the community and the effects of the work they do, he was very passionate about supporting the charity.

“Suicide is a huge issue and it’s important to help out when you can,” Tom said.

Scouting Ireland is another organisation that Tom has given his time and energy to.

“I think the scouts is the one organisation that a young person can learn skills for life like cooking or about nature. I think the time with the scouts has stood to me.” 

Tom said he has made fantastic friends over the years with the organisation and said it is fascinating to see young scouts develop and mature into fine adults.

“You meet scouts these days and they are bringing their kids down and you just think to yourself, I remember when you were a kid!” 

Mr Butler said the scouting mantra was something that always struck a chord with him.

“They always say in the scouts, ‘Think of others before yourself and try and do a good deed every day.’” 

The type of man to always give a hand if it is needed, Tom has, in the past, been of assistance to the Irish Guide Dogs.

“I was doing a bit of work with them one time and I noticed that they were having trouble manhandling and moving around the big bags of dog food. So I would go up and bring in the three or four pallets of food and organise them so they could be accessed.” 

A bright future 

Looking ahead, Tom said the future of the Ballincollig Tidy Towns is bright with new people joining the organisation on a weekly basis.

The Tidy Towns is like a big family, it really is.” 

Discussing the effects of Covid-19 over the past 12 months, Tom said he was afraid that some people would not come back to the organisation once restrictions were lifted.

“I’m afraid of losing people who have been with us for years. People have different routines now, different lifestyles and things are likely to change.” 

Tom said he saw some silver lining in the Covid pandemic with more families and friends out walking and on bikes.

“Hopefully these good habits will stick when things return to normal.” 

For more information on Ballincollig Tidy Towns, log onto www.ballincolligtidytowns.ie

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