Cooking for yourself on your own isn’t much fun. So imagine you are either unwell, or somehow incapacitated – temporarily or otherwise – and there is no friend, or family member, available to do the necessary on a regular basis.
Recently, I got to see how the Schull Community Care Association run their Meals on Wheels service and had a sit down with some of the people who attend the association’s weekly luncheon club.
Mary Murphy (80) said: ‘The food is excellent. Ellen Logan, the chef, is great. You couldn’t ask for better.’ Alice O’Driscoll (89) – who would put the best of us to shame in the style stakes – said: ‘It is lovely. I look forward to it every week. I’ve been coming since the first day it opened.’
Sr Emmanuel O’Sullivan – who insists she is 71 ‘and a half’ – flits between helping out and enjoying the benefits of the gregarious social club, which include bingo in the morning, a four-course lunch, entertainment in the afternoon, followed by more tea and biscuits.
Sr Emmanuel has a lovely light way about her. She says: ‘I still help, but in the summertime I come to play cards. I like the company, the fun, meeting people.’
Schull’s Meals on Wheels service and the weekly Luncheon Club are provided by the Schull Community Care Association, which was formed more than 37 years ago.
For years, they met in the Church of Ireland hall while the meals on wheels were prepared on a rota basis by local women, who cooked in their own kitchens.
Things changed in 2012 when the association decided to find a permanent base of operations. They approached Fr Alan O’Leary and asked if the Diocese would lease part of the old boys’ school building. By September 1st, 2013 this highly proactive committee had completely renovated the premises.
Old fireplaces, chimneys and toilet blocks were removed so the premises could be completely reconfigured to provide a professional kitchen, a spacious dining hall and social hub, as well as modern conveniences, and plenty of storage – all of which are wheelchair accessible. There are even solar panels to provide plenty of hot water.
Some of the money for the renovation work had already been raised; some came by way of a €30,000 grant from Cork County Council; and some continues to come in in the form of an annual grant from the Health Service Executive. Every year, the association holds a flag day on the Saturday of the August Bank Holiday weekend and people tend to give generously because they know the benefits it brings to the lives of people who are often living in the most remote parts of the Mizen Peninsula. And – year in, year out – Nellie Cotter of The Little Way Charity Shop is generous in her support.
Schull works in close co-operation with Goleen Community Council – a situation that Michael Collins TD lent his support to – and together they provide hot meals six days a week.
The Schull meals are delivered every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and the Goleen service is rolled out every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. As well as the weekly Schull Luncheon Club, the Goleen group also gathers in Goleen Social Centre on a weekly basis.
Whenever and wherever people can they come forward to offer help, support, or funding. There are, for example, numerous volunteer drivers – some of whom take their own cars on smaller, shorter runs twice a week, while another volunteer drives ‘the van’.
The van is a story all of its own. Denis and Mary Ryan of Denis and Mary Ryan Car Sales are very active members of the community in Schull, where they have a holiday home.
They have generously lent their support by providing the service with a courtesy van for the longer daily runs. The van covers a lot of ground in the week from Crookhaven to Durrus to Ballydehob and back to Schull, allowing the delivery of an average of 30 hot and decidedly delicious meals every day.
The provision of a van has, according to Nuala Hegarty, the association’s treasurer, made things so much easier for them. ‘If we had to run and pay for a van it would make things much more expensive and necessitate spending most of our time on fundraising,’ she said.
Denis and Mary Ryan have provided the Schull and Goleen social centres with a new Citroen Berlingo van, which is taxed and updated every six months. ‘This is our fourth van,’ said Nuala, ‘because Denis and Mary have been doing this for the last two years.’ The association is also extremely fortunate that BHP Insurances have come on board to cover the yearly insurance costs.
There is an open door policy when it comes to the weekly luncheon club, which costs just €10, but for meals on wheels – which cost just €4 – people can ring Nuala on 086-3159719, or Ellen on 085-1078910, and get the meals delivered once it has been sanctioned by the district nurse.