Call for young people with time and ideas to get involved, to help Cope bridge its funding gap and continue to deliver its essential services
by EMMA CONNOLLY
AS Cope Foundation celebrates its 60th anniversary, the organisation which supports children and adults with intellectual disabilities, is putting the spotlight on its fundraising committees, without which it couldn’t deliver its services.
And the organisation is using the occasion to issue a heartfelt plea for young people with time and ideas (not money) on their hands to consider joining these teams who are vital in bridging the funding gap between what is provided by the HSE and what they need to do their work.
West Cork has extremely active fundraising committees – some of whom have been on the ground for nearly as long as Cope itself – with teams in Skibbereen, Clonakilty, Enniskeane-Ballineen and Bandon. Dunmanway, Macroom and Ballinagree also have active committees.
Sean Abbott, chief executive officer, Cope Foundation, said one of the main reasons they had been able to achieve so much over the past 60 years was thanks to the committees’ extraordinary dedication and hard work.
Their endless table quizzes, fashion shows, bazaars etc, not to mention distribution of the annual Flowers of Hope has resulted in hundreds of thousands of euro being raised. €859,000 was raised in 2016 alone through fundraising.
Sean added: ‘It has allowed us to do things that Government funding would never have permitted.
‘These are our unsung heroes. They quietly and very effectively give freely of their time, energy and effort to support Cope Foundation and its mission at a local level. Some have been fundraising for Cope Foundation for over 50 years.
‘At Cope Foundation we work hard to enhance the lives of people with an intellectual disability and/or autism; working in partnership with them, their families and local communities to provide a range of person-centred services and supports.
‘The fundraising committees are the people who have always helped us to push forward, break new ground, improve and maintain our quality standards, widen the provision of our services, and represent us locally. I cannot speak highly enough about these extraordinary people and I consider Cope Foundation to be very fortunate to have so many determined and resilient volunteer fundraisers.’
Fundraising income generated by the local committees helps Cope to provide additional and supplementary services and supports such as short breaks (respite), communication supports, training and learning supports and more. Fundraising income also supports the purchase of much-needed equipment, resources etc, for their centres and homes.
Sean added: ‘It is my view that going forward, these committees will continue to have a huge role to play in Cope Foundation’s future and it is essential that we, as an organisation, support them to continue their work by assisting them in recruiting new members and finding new ways of fundraising, so they can carry on their great work for another 60 years.’
The Skibbereen committee has been working tirelessly for the past 46 years – with huge credit due to current secretary Mary O’Driscoll, who has been a member for the entire duration.
Chairperson of Cope itself and local businesswoman Catherine Field has been a member for the past 42 years.
She got involved as she felt strongly that parents and families should have all the support they needed without having to fight for it.
‘Politicians and the powers that be have no concept of what’s involved in a lifetime of care,’ she said.
‘It is with pride and pleasure that in 2017 we celebrate 60 years of service to Cork city and county. From small beginnings John Bermingham ploughed a furrow that has grown and developed.
‘The fundraising committees are special to me; they have worked for years fundraising tirelessly without fuss in a climate that has become increasingly difficult.
‘HSE funding hasn’t increased on par with Cope’s client base, with additional funding needed in particular for home supports, therapies and respite care with an ageing population,’ she said.
‘Every agency is in the same position – it’s getting more and more difficult and fundraising committees are more important than ever.’
A former hostel on the Cork Road in Skibbereen is waiting to be furnished for short-term breaks.
‘That will be run seven days a week. There are so many people looking for it and we’ll work to keep that going. People will be able to see what their money is being used for,’ said Catherine.
Sheila Jennings, chairperson of the Clonakilty committee has been involved for 24 years and chairperson for 12 (her mother has been volunteering with the Carrigaline & Crosshaven group for more than 40 years).
Sheila estimates that over half a million euro has been raised in Clonakilty since they were set up 50 years ago.
She got involved initially as her brother has special needs, and continued as she could see the difference their funds make. ‘If you visit any of the Cope hostels you can see where the money is needed and where it is going; you can see what facilities need improving and can decide what you’ll fundraise for next and leave feeling re-energised.
‘But we only have a future if we get young people involved – every organisation needs them.’
Julia Slyne, is chairperson of the Bandon committee, which was established 57 years ago, and has raised in the region of €800,000.
Julia who has been on the 14-person committee for 32 years said that due to their ageing profile they’ve had to discontinue the Flowers of Hope this year and echoed the appeal for young people to come on board.
Louis White chair of the Ballineen-Enniskeane committee said they would also welcome younger people getting involved.
‘We have great support from the local Foroige club – young people are vital to bring in new fundraising ideas.’
Louis, involved for over 40 years, highlighted the invaluable support from the local community as did all the committees. However, the statistics speak for themselves.
Sean Abbott in his chief executive’s message in the 2016 annual report said: ‘The HSE Service Improvement team issued its report on Cope Foundation and highlighted that in comparison with the top five funded agencies nationally, Cope receives 19% less funding for residential services and 41% less for day services.
‘This is having a significant effect on our ability to do everything that we would like to do for the people we support and their families.’
And according to its annual statement:
‘The HSE has indicated that they will not fund any deficits for the year ending 2017 for any agency. If adequate funds are not forthcoming the directors believe that they will have to reduce the services provided by Cope Foundation during the course of the year.
‘However the directors are continuing to engage with the HSE and are hopeful that this funding will be granted.’
The fundraising committees now find themselves competing against many professional fundraisers which has made their task much more difficult today than it was even a decade ago.
And while it is a challenging climate, they all stress the benefits of getting stuck in are huge, with many having made lifelong friends through their involvement.
One member summed it up perfectly: ‘There is always a massive feel-good factor with our events and we really want to share this experience with more people. You won’t be sorry for coming on board.’