Hometown Heroes: Tracy Connolly says helping people is where her passion lies

From serving her country as a member of the Defence Forces to giving up her free time to give back to veterans, Tracy Connollyis the epitome of selfless service, writes Roisin Burke
Hometown Heroes: Tracy Connolly says helping people is where her passion lies

Tracy Connolly recently became the first woman to be elected on to the board of directors of the Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel, Óglaigh Náisiúnta na hÉireann (ONE) after being asked to take up the voluntary position.

TRACY CONNOLLY spent 23 years in the Irish army and retired four years ago to work part-time freelancing as a healthcare assistant in hospitals.

She recently became the first woman to be elected on to the board of directors of the Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel, Óglaigh Náisiúnta na hÉireann (ONE) after being asked to take up the voluntary position.

“I’m the first female ever to be elected into the board of directors of ONE organisation in its history,” said TracY. “I was always gravitating to the Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel, Óglaigh Náisiúnta na hÉireann to help our homeless veterans and serving members.

“It just felt like the right thing to do. I guess it’s a comradeship that cannot be broken. I love to help my fellow veterans as you never know when I myself might need to call upon them. They are my extended arm. They are my family.”

Tracy, who is from Mallow, said ONE is an organisation for ex-veterans, members, and volunteers who help the homeless veterans and also guide Defence Forces personnel with the transitioning from retiring into civilian life.

“I’d like to see more females come forward to help us with our homeless veterans by either becoming a member or a volunteer. We have 37 branches around the country and we need more people to help us in every single branch. We have hostels in Dublin, Athlone, Letterkenny, Cobh, and we are opening another hostel in St Luke’s in the near future.”

Work of ONE 

At the moment, ONE has a total of 54 beds that it manages up and down the country as well as a Veteran Support Centre opening in a few weeks across from Collins Barracks near Military Hill, Cork.

“Our new Veteran Support Centre will offer hope for the future for a retired veteran. It will encourage their wellbeing and promote awareness of how they can up-skill again into the civilian community.

“They will become part of a veteran family within the community and there will be no shame when anyone calls on our doorstep for help. We will create a path for the future of veterans.

“We want to empower them. We will run courses from gardening, workshops, computers, and many more.”

Before working with ONE, Tracy was also involved with the Cork Simon Soup Run and, during the pandemic, she worked with the emergency services doing meals on wheels as a veterans assistance service in her local community.

“I love to help people, this is where my true passion lies, and I thought it would be great to help homeless Irish veterans back on their feet. ONE also help homeless veterans from abroad from time to time.”

Giving back to the community 

Tracy said she loves giving back something to the community.

“Letting people know they are valued and encouraging them to get involved with their community, making out CVs for people transitioning from the Defence Forces to civilian life, or calling to elderly people for an hour or so letting them know there is always someone there for them in the wider community.

“We have a rapid welfare response in action now going forward too.”

The ex-veteran said it is in her DNA to help others and she has learned a lot from her experiences.

“You must be grateful for what you have and tell yourself this every day. There is a lot of anxiety in today’s society and people suffering from a lot of mental issues, especially since the lockdown.

“It’s good ONE can reach out and help all kinds of people by giving them information on the direct services out there.”

Tracy said she is very passionate about making a difference.

“If I can pull another person out of the depression or loneliness they are in, then I know I’m doing something good. It feels good for them I’m there and it feels good for me I’m making a difference.”

Tracy was also integral to the creation of an optional uniform of a tailored blazer, blouse, fitted skirt, or trousers, designed by Tracy and her team.

It is the first female-specific uniform to be unveiled as part of the Irish Defence Forces Veterans Charity and is one of many new actions taken to encourage female veterans to join ONE.

Tracy said ONE is always looking for new people to get involved in the organisation.

  • To become a ONE volunteer or member, email onecorkcity1@gmail.com. To donate, text Flag to 50300.

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