A joint venture between the local Lions Club and what was then the Southern Health Board continues to enhance the lives of many older people in Skibbereen and its environs writes Aisling Meath
ON March 3rd, 1997 the Day Care Centre in Skibbereen first opened its doors. A joint venture between the Skibbereen Lions Club and the Southern Health Board (now the HSE), it has grown from strength to strength as a place where clients can avail of a range of supportive health services in a stimulating and companionable environment.
This was the vision of the senior public health nurse at the time Bridget O’Brien. In this role Bridget worked tirelessly with voluntary groups until the vision became a reality and today there are five day care centres in West Cork.
‘We knocked on doors within a ten-mile radius of Skibbereen,’ recalls Jerry Lucey, a member of the original board of trustees and the Lions Club. ‘The appeal went through the local churches and the people responded so generously that we raised 135,627.88, and that was in punts! The result is now we have a service for senior people that is second to none,’ he said.
Current president of Skibbereen Lion Club Sean Mahon picks up from Jerry’s comments: ‘Speaking on behalf of the latest generation of “younger” Lions it’s fair to say that we’re quite proud of what our predecessors achieved in delivering a project of such scale as the day care centre, which has in a very real way enhanced the quality of life for hundreds of older people from in and around Skibbereen.
‘Well known members of Skibbereen Lions Club back then such as the president, Dr John O’ Keeffe, Dave Long, Paddy Hurley, Tim O’Driscoll, Michael Hussey, Sean Murray, Jim Byrne, Finbar Williams, Tom Ryan, Liam O’Regan, Jerry Lucey, Dan Cullinane, Dan O’Sullivan and Denis Calnan were instrumental in generating funds to build something of real value and legacy for the town,’ Mr Mahon said.
‘Along with the Lions Club, Sister Lily, the hospital matron in 1997 worked tirelessly to establish the centre,’ said Mary Willis, day care centre coordinator.
‘I would like to thank all local organisations who contributed to and continue to support our fundraising efforts,’ she continued.
Now 20 years later, the centre continues to run a busy programme offering health, welfare, social and other primary care services.
Morning refreshments and a four-course lunch are served daily, and then it’s on to a diverse range of afternoon activities. These include drama, bingo, card playing, creative arts, short story writing, producing a book, singing a song, a bit of waltzing, a quick step or two, playing a tune and learning new technologies such as emailing and skyping grandchildren abroad – with a break for scones and tea.
Mary Barry from Skibbereen regularly attends: ‘I never expected that I was going to have so much fun in my old age,’ she said. ‘They are great here, I love coming!’
The clients who use the facility cannot praise the staff enough.
‘They go over and above the call of duty’ continues Mary, and Agnes Salter Collins agrees: ‘I love the music, and the chat and company.’
Eileen O’ Driscoll has been attending for 15 years and is chairperson of Friends of the Day Care Centre.
‘It’s a great organisation, a great day out and a wonderful opportunity to meet up with your own age group,’ she said.
‘We have Donegal Mary, Mayo Mary and Gretta working here,’ explained Liam O’Donovan from Kilcoe, who has been attending the centre for 19 years. ‘They are wonderful altogether, we have great craic. I love playing cards and bingo and having the chat.’
Mary Willis has been with the centre since it opened in 1997 and along with Mary Cahalane, health care assistant, who has been there since 1998, and Gretta Finn, multitask attendant since 2002, she has developed the centre into a contemporary, high-functioning unit.
‘Our main aim is to keep our clients happy and healthy and to make sure that they are not worrying about anything.’ said Mary Willis.
Dan O’Regan, who is a regular attendee at the centre cites one example of the care provided: ‘I had never before heard of acupuncture until I came here, and had been having terrible trouble with my knee. But they sorted it out and I haven’t had a problem with it since.’
Despite the heavy rain on Friday, March 3rd, the clients enthusiastically made their way to the centre to celebrate the 20th anniversary with ecumenical prayer and mass followed by lunch and musical entertainment provided by Donie and Noel. The walls were resplendent with artwork created by the day care community.
As a token of the esteem held by the staff of Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre for the staff at the Day Care Centre, Justine Foster, education and community programme manager surprised them with a presentation of a specially made glass sculpture.
‘It’s been my pleasure to work with Mary Willis, Mary Cahalane, Gretta and all the other staff for nearly all of the 20 years. They always place the person at the centre of everything they do, working above and beyond to celebrate people’s lives and encourage creative ideas.
‘We’ve shared so many wonderful projects over the years, with painting, making ceramic maps, writing haikus, glass fusing, and even making an animation.’
Never afraid of a challenge,’ Justine continued, ‘it was Mary’s open mindedness that first sowed the seed of the Arts for Health Partnership programme, currently taking place in 11 healthcare settings across West Cork. ‘Mary and her team, while never admitting it, are among the pioneers who have brought arts into healthcare settings, and so are a constant inspiration. I’m looking forward to the new projects being planned for this year,’ Justine concluded.
• For more information on Skibbereen Day Care Centre, talk to your GP, public health nurse, or contact coordinator Mary Willis on 028-40454.