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Winners of the first ever Wicklow Volunteer Awards Announced

County Wicklow Volunteer centre is delighted to announce the 12 winners of the first ever Wicklow Volunteer Awards. Against tough competition the five (5) winners in the local hero awards by municipal district are in Arklow MD, P.J Busher a stalwart member of Arklow Community Action Resource Centre, a man willing to go the extra mile for anyone in need in his community.

Deirdre McCormack in Baltinglass MD. well known for her determination to get a pool for West Wicklow, probably not as well known for the many positive community actions and campaigns she helped to organise during the worst of the COVID-19 months.

In Bray MD, Eleanor Murphy of Bray Meals on Wheels, the rock who with her team of cooks and drivers has ensured that 2,700 meals a month are delivered to those in need in the Bray area.

Marie McCooey, the woman whose passion for Greystones has driven the efforts of Greystones Tidy Towns to the benefit of all living there, and finally Rachel Harper in the Wicklow MD whose work with both Tiglin Challenge and the Dublin Christian Mission has helped many people to find new and fulfilling role in life. We are very grateful to SSE Renewables for sponsoring the Wicklow and Arklow local hero awards.  

SSE also sponsored the Covid-19 Special Projects which was won by Aisling Grace who was nominated by Dunlavin and District Forum for her tremendous work in the area. When the first Covid 19 lockdown happened, the over 70s and the vulnerable were advised to cocoon. This was when Aislings talents really came to the fore. She knew what was required, she rallied all the partners and organised everything from PPE, a mail drop to every house informing of the service, a delivery team, the phone a collect system etc. In a couple of days, the delivery service was up and running. 

Liz Mc Mahon was nominated by Cheshire Ireland for the Virtual Volunteering Award. Her virtual tours enhanced the life of those who could not get out.  One of the people Liz volunteers with is an elderly gentleman from Enniskerry. Liz brings him on meaningful virtual tours where he gets to meet people he knew in the village, creating great joy to his life.  Takeda sponsored this award and the Award for a volunteer from the Migrant, Refugee, Asylum Seeker Community which was won by Sibangilizwe Ncube who despite living in a temporary  direct provision centre has volunteered in the Shoreline, Greystones Centralised  Vaccination Centre. It would not be an exaggeration to say that he is a key member of the volunteering team.   

Kasha Huse-Byrne was nominated by Bray Citizens Information Centre (CIC) for her initiative in providing services to vulnerable clients during the pandemic.  Kasha’s support during the pandemic enabled Bray CIC to provide an application form filling service which was essential for vulnerable clients who could not be assisted over the telephone. This frontline work was a lifeline for those who needed assistance. While doing this Kasha noticed that her clients on the autistic spectrum were comfortable dropping into Bray CIC, because was by appointment only, meaning no queues at reception!  Recognising the need of autistic clients for a clean, quiet and uncrowded place Sasha approached the manager about making Bray CIC an autism-friendly centre which would be the first CIC in the country to do this!

Young caring people are our future of our planet and Sean Legaspi who volunteers with Bray Tidy Towns (BTT) is a shining example of someone young who knows the value of his environment and our need to preserve it. Sean joined BTT to complete his Gaisce Award. From the beginning of his volunteering it was difficult to plan anything because of COVID restrictions. However, Sean and one other volunteer working together outdoors worked on tough projects, including digging up hard areas of the Station garden, together with one other person applying two tonnes of bark mulch to the same garden. Over a number of weeks using a crowbar, he removed heavy plastic netting from three large plant beds on the Ravenswell Road walkway.  Sean remains as a very active and useful member of the Bray Tidy Towns team months after he had attained his Gaisce quota of community volunteering events. This is dedication!

There are many ways that companies can support the voluntary and community sector from sponsoring Awards such as these, which were sponsored by SSE Renewables, Takeda and Trinity Biotech, to actively encouraging their staff to volunteer as is the case with WaterWipes whose staff member Ailbhe O’Brien was nominated and won the Corporate Volunteering Award. Ailbhe was nominated by the Irish Neonatal Health Alliance for her amazing work in supporting them, Here’s  what they had to say about Ailbhe “ Ailbhe has supported the work of the INHA by helping us develop a suite of NICU Milestone Card to help parents of premature babies track their babies journey through the neonatal intensive care unit. 25 cards in total are now available for free to every parent of a premature baby in Ireland thanks to Ailbhes support. The cards are a meaningful way of making memories for families as they navigate a very difficult journey with their sick child. Ailbhe has also supported us in developing Pledge Cards for families and friends to offer assistance to families with sick babies in the NICU i.e. shopping, childminding, gardening, etc. The cards are now also being used internationally in Hungarian NICUs and helping families there also.

For 12 volunteer award winners Tuesday 2nd November was the evening they discovered how valued they are in their community, how valued they are by Wicklow County Council and the Department of Rural and Community Development and how valued they are by the four sponsors of the awards – County Wicklow Public Participation, SSE Renewables, Takeda and Trinity Biotech.

Each award winner received a unique and useful price of work by a local artisan to celebrate their commitment to, an actions in supporting the community of county Wicklow. 

According to the independent adjudicators “it was very difficult to choose winners when each nominee was so worthy of winning”.  The awards were held on Zoom, however that doesn’t mean that everyone involved didn’t have a great time!

For the staff of the County Wicklow Volunteer Centre the awards were a humbling experience as they marvelled at the extraordinary commitment of the winners, especially during the first and second waves of COVID when all winners went the extra mile to ensure that their services would continue and the weak and vulnerable in their communities were looked after so that social isolation and fear was banished. 

The 12 Winners were as follows:

  1. East Coast Samaritans – Team Award.
  2. P.J. Busher, Arklow Community Action Resource Centre – Arklow Local Hero Award 
  3. Deirdre McCormack, Pool for West Wicklow and lots more – Baltinglass Local Hero Award
  4. Eleanor Murphy, Bray Meals on Wheels and Bray Old Folks Association – Bray Local Hero Award
  5. Marie McCooey, Greystones Tidy Towns – Greystones Local Hero
  6. Rachel Harper, Tiglin Centre and much more – Wicklow Local Hero Award. 
  7. Aisling Grace,  Dunlavin and District Forum – Covid-19 Special Projects Award
  8. Liz McMahon, Cheshire Ireland –  Virtual Volunteering Award
  9. Kasha Huse-Byrne, Bray Citizens Information Centre – Innovative Community Volunteering Award
  10. Sibangilizwe Ncube, Shoreline, Greystones, Centralised Vaccination Centre – Migrant, Asylum Seeker, Refugee Volunteer Award
  11. Sean Legaspi, Bray Tidy Towns – Under 18 Volunteer Award. 
  12. Ailbhe O’Brien, WaterWipes – Corporate Volunteering Award

The County Wicklow Volunteer Centre would like to thank SSE Renewables who sponsored three (3) awards. Takeda who sponsored tow (2) awards and Trinity Biotech and County Wicklow Public Participation Network who both sponsored one (1) award. Without their support and the support of Wicklow County Council and the Department of Rural and Community Development these awards would not have happened.