Since it was set up in 2009, Drimoleague’s charity shop has helped many groups, thanks to the support of people from Bantry, Skibbereen, Dunmanway and beyond. And, against the odds, 2020 was no different.
EVEN in this, the most challenging of all years, the Curiosity Shop in Drimoleague was able to bounce back and raise over €10,000 for local charities.
Kathleen Keane, who started the shop in 2009, was scribbling a few notes for The Southern Star when Mary Robinson came on the telly and reminded everyone about meitheal – the gathering together to help one another.
‘I thought that will do nicely as a description of what we are doing here,’ she said. The ‘we’ Kathleen is referring to is a true collective of Mná na hÉireann.
Helping to keep the shop in order are Patricia Collins, Deirdre Connors, Marian Keane, Catherine Ross, Kathleen Payne, Mary O’Driscoll, Sheila Butler, Ann McCarthy, Kathleen O’Driscoll, Mary O’Brien and Maureen McCarthy.
But the roll call doesn’t end there because the shop also relies heavily on the talents of Ann Daly who impresses everyone with her monthly shop window displays.
Meanwhile, in the village, Ann Leonard of May Deane’s usually does the Christmas hamper, cake, and voucher raffle to raise funds for seasonal street lighting.
This year, the Curiosity Shop will be hosting the raffle. They are hoping to boost the Christmas lighting fund by €1,000.
Kathleen, who is an active member of the Irish Country Women’s Association, said the inspiration for the shop came from ICA friends in Ballydehob.
Facing a shortfall of about €7,000 for the Drimoleague Heritage Walkways project, Kathleen – the committee’s vice-chair – thought, ‘That’s what we’ll do’ and the Drimoleague charity shop raised the money in no time.
It might be gilding the lily to suggest that the shop would not be so well stocked if it were not for women who – in the relentless pursuit of a more ordered lifestyle – regularly do a clear-out of their homes, garages and attics.
The first lockdown resulted in the shop receiving tonnes of donations – top quality merchandise, which helped to boost the coffers.
It is women, too, who frequent the shop most of all. Since they relocated from a small premises to a much larger one, the Curiosity Shop has become a kind of community hub.
Furniture is bought, good quality clothing has made it something of a mecca for vintage-savvy shoppers, but people are also charmed by the proffered tea and scones.
Information is also shared. Kathleen said anyone looking for something locally – anything from directions, to someone who is in search of their ancestors – tend to stick their head around the door.
Covid-19 has had an impact. The closure from March 17th to the first week in July being the most obvious impact.
Covid-19 means they also have to hold and store all donated items for one week before handling them and even then they use face masks and the proper sterilising products.
‘The shop is a great social outlet in the village,’ said Kathleen, who was eagerly awiting last week’s re-opening after the latest lockdown.
‘We are aware of the need to shop locally and to keep our community up – not just financially, but communally too,’ said Kathleen.
Clearly, the gathering together to help one another is not just idle talk in Drimoleague.
Kathleen cannot, off the top of her head, count the number of organisations that have received donations since they opened in 2009, but they are meticulous, and every cent is recorded.
It is, in fact, published every month in the parish newsletter.
Kathleen said she wants to thank everyone for their support. That ‘thank you’ stretches to all those from Bantry, Skibbereen and Dunmanway who continue to make contributions.
When asked, ‘How do people apply?’ Kathleen said, ‘They just come in and ask.’
No one here stands on ceremony.
Donations made from July to October
After taking rent, rates and utilities out of funds raised, Kathleen said donations made from July to October include: €1,000 for Rapid Response; €800 for the Air Ambulance; €800 for Cancer Connect; €800 for Dunmanway Hospital; €800 for Skibbereen Hospital; €1,000 for the CUH neonatal clinic; €1,000 for Drimoleague walkways; €1,000 for Bantry Hospital’s stroke unit; €1,000 towards repairing the roof on the parish hall; €300 for Drimoleague Community Alert; €300 for Meals on Wheels and €450 for a garden bench for the community to enjoy.