Writes Ciaran Dineen
It’s hard to believe but this year the Carrigaline Lions Youth Centre celebrates its 5th Anniversary from when its doors opened back in 2015. Since then, the Centre has gone on to achieve wonderful success and over the last couple of years in particular, it really has become a focal point for Carrigaline.
Although it may now only be its 5th birthday, the proposal from the Carrigaline Lions Club to build the centre started a number of years before that. The Board of Directors; Brian Thoma, Seán Duggan, Colm O’Rourke, Pádraig Barrett, Pat O’Sullivan and John Doran, took on a mammoth task way back in 2012, while the current Building Manager, Kieran McNamee was also a huge part of the progress that resulted with the finished article we now see.
The Lions Club have a proud tradition of taking on big community projects and the success of the Lions Youth Centre is testament to the outstanding work that they do. The design of the building itself adds enormously to the streetscape in Carrigaline and really has helped to modernise the town.
“It’s a very fine building so it deserved to attract good tenants and good occupants”, Kieran tells The Carrigdhoun Newspaper. “We have four main anchor tenants here; Carrigaline Family Support, Foróige Youth Services, Citizens Advice and Enable Ireland. Many of them have been with us from the early days and they have really grown with us since then.”
The killer question however with any development like this, run and managed by a local community group, is whether the end-product can become self-manageable. After just five years in business, the Centre has now paid off a huge chunk of its mortgage and, in the not too distant future should become debt free.
The help from Cork County Council was essential in getting the project off the ground, along with the support from local politicians. “We did very well from state-grants and we had across the board political good will and Simon Coveney was excellent working behind the scenes for us when perhaps there was very little money around back then in 2012/13,” Kieran continues.
While grants available through matching-funding, it would require an incredible amount of support via fundraising events for the initiative to take off. Without the support from the people of Carrigaline and beyond, the Centre would not have been possible to achieve. The efforts and coming together of the community can now subsequently be seen as the building provides tangible evidence of what social capital can achieve.
Pic: Siobhán Russell - Alex Slye: Community Drugs Worker; Laure Byrne & Ray Murphy: Foróige Youth Workers & Kieran McNamee: Building Manager at Carrigaline Lions Club Youth Centre.
Enable Ireland, service users & staff at Carrigaline Lions Youth Centre.
The Lions Youth Centre has now become an extension of everything that is good about Carrigaline and it should leave a legacy for others to now follow. Walking around the façade it’s hard to get a grasp of all the activity that goes on inside and it’s only once you get around and open up some doors that you can begin to get a sense of the diverse range of all the goings on. For the last couple of years, the Gaelcholaiste have rented a space to hold some of their classes, while a primary class group have made use of one of the other spaces available.
2020 has been a tumultuous year and while some of the large gathering events have not been able to take place over the course of the last 9 months, many smaller scale activities have fortunately been able to go ahead. However, given the circumstances it has meant that the Lions Club have not been able to do the kind of fundraising efforts that they would normally organise.
Looking ahead to 2021 there is hope that they can recommence events and continue to pay off the outstanding mortgage. “2020 has been a bit of a disaster so we are effectively set back a year in terms of fundraising. We’ll be redoubling our efforts in 2021 on that front to catch up and we’ll be looking to improve and expand our services where we can. We’re always striving for as good a service as we can and when people have suggestions and observations we take them seriously".
Despite the difficulty of the last 8 months, Kieran is very optimistic on the direction of both the Lions Club and the Lions Youth Centre and he explains that over the last 18 months or so he can really see a growth in support for the project. “I can see a turn in the last year or two because people can really see the activity in here and they see the community role that we are now having, which might even be more than what we had originally envisaged but that’s fantastic too because it shows us responding to the needs of the community.”
Success breeds success so the Lions Youth Centre and the Lions Club are sure to build on the progress that they have already made. The future of both looks incredibly bright and we should all be excited about what may come next down the line. As the moto goes, “Where there’s a need, there’s a lion”.
If you would like to book a space or find out more about the Lions Youth Centre you can check out their Facebook page at ‘Carrigaline Lions Youth Centre’.