St Michael’s Centre in Bandon town centre aims to connect and empower older people through a wide variety of services. Kieran O’Mahony visited to the centre recently to find out more
AS a community resource, St Michael’s Centre, which is located on South Main Street in Bandon, is about empowering older people through different projects and services, and even if you’re just looking for some information or popping in for a tea and a chat, you’ll be welcomed by the friendly and helpful staff.
The organisation was established in 1969 and has been in operation in its current guise since 2014. It is headed up by co-ordinator Rita Kearney, who is tasked with implementing a vision for what projects and activities would operate from the centre.
‘Our vision was to basically create a resource centre for older people in and around Bandon. We wanted to continue with the Meals on Wheels scheme which had been running since 1969, but we were also looking to expand the brief and to look at other programmes,’ Rita told The Southern Star.
She explained that the ethos of St Michael’s Centre is about ‘building relationships, trust and respect and it’s because of this that people will come back again. This is not a place of judgement.’
What started off on a part-time basis, three mornings a week, has now grown and the centre is open nearly four and half days a week with 120 volunteers working on a variety of projects. The centre is funded by donations and grant aid from various sources and they work in partnership with others organisations including Age Action Ireland, the HSE, Cork County Council and the Irish Council of Social Housing and The Housing Agency.
‘We’ve gone from a few hundred in the first year to now having 5,000 threshold visitors with almost 75% of those coming in to see us, and that’s not to mention the Wheels on Meals.’
Providing a listening ear through their ‘Care Ring’ telephone service is one vital provision that the centre is keen to highlight and promote to older people living in the Bandon area.
Jo Moloney, co-ordinator of Care Ring, has been running the service for over 10 years. ‘When we started we had about 55 clients. That’s down to about 30 now and it’s run by six volunteers. We would love to encourage more people to use this service too,’ said Jo.
‘Those that avail of Care Ring love that they can speak to someone and it’s a very general chat – nothing too personal and nothing financial either. If we don’t get them on a Tuesday we would try them again the next day. It’s more of a friendly service than checking in.’
‘We have a good geographical spread of clients from Ballinspittle right out to Crookstown and Enniskeane and we run the service 49 weeks a year. We don’t have that many clients in Bandon itself but we would like to change that and encourage more older people to use this service.’
As Rita has highlighted, St Michael’s is all about building relationships and trust with people, so part of her role involves visiting active retirement groups regularly to promote this important services that the centre provides.
They also operate a visiting service, where volunteers – who are garda vetted – can visit those signed up on a weekly or fortnightly basis. Volunteers also run a Care & Repair Service and are available to go to people’s homes to help with minor jobs if needed.
The Meals on Wheels service – which runs from Tuesday to Saturday – delivers between 400 and 500 meals a month in the town of Bandon and their volunteers drivers help deliver these meals.
Those caring for loved ones can access supports through the Bandon Family Carers’ Support Group which meets at the centre, and another popular service operating on Tuesday mornings at the centre is the Digital Eye Computer Club, headed up by Eileen O’Sullivan. Older people can come in and get help with their smartphones and tablets, while at the same time making friends too.
‘We have Transition Year students who volunteer and they work on a one-to-one basis with those calling in. It’s a transfer of learning, as opposed to doing it for them and that’s the key point here,’ added Rita.
A genealogy course is proving to be very popular at the moment, while ‘Fáilte Isteach’ sees older people come in to teach non-English speakers the language. Also on offer are classes in music, art and physical exercise.
‘We are a community resource centre for older people. It’s not a medical model. It’s all about making sure that people have power and control over their own lives. We don’t do it for them. Connectivity is the key – if someone pops in for a chat it can make all the difference,’ added Rita.
• For more information on the services provided at
St Michael’s Centre contact
023-8841681 or email
[email protected] See their Facebook page ‘St Michael’s Centre.’