Some wonderful things are happening in this county and the Pride of Place judges who visited Longford last week were certainly wise to that.
This year two local projects have been nominated by Longford Co Council for the national Pride of Place awards, including Springlawn and Lanesboro, and as a result, last Wednesday the judges - William Beatty and Owen Connelly - were provided with a wonderful showcase of all the very best that this county has to offer.
The future is indeed very bright if the community spirit and local pride is anything to go on!
First off last week was the Springlawn judging. The project, which incorporates Springlawn Community Childcare LTD, Longford Community Policing Unit, and the Springlawn Residents Community Development, has seen a major clean up in the area alongside the development of a community resource centre and modern, state-of-the-art childcare facility. The community garda effort has also seen the number of young offenders decrease and a willingness to change negative behavioural patterns across the board.
It is an area that faced many challenges over the years and it is thanks to a “core group of residents who never gave up” and all the various agencies who worked together that a national Pride of Place nomination has now been secured in Springlawn and it has indeed garnered a deep sense of pride in the locality.
During the presentation to the Pride of Place judges, those in attendance heard that “Springlawn has become a much better place to live in” - words that were reiterated on several occasions throughout proceedings. The estate itself was a-bloom with hanging baskets and flower arrangements, and the entire area was bright, clean with an evident buzz of excitement in anticipation of the day ahead.
“In 2001 Springlawn Community Childcare was established and in 2004 with the help of the local authorities we purchased No 60 for our childcare centre,” a delighted Breege Campbell conceded. “Then in 2007 we approached the council to secure No 59 so that we could provide an after-school service and this has gone from strength to strength. The service is a home from home service and all of the staff here know the children personally, so there is a great relationship between everyone.”
This year, 2014, that very childcare service is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The company employs nine staff and caters for up to 50 children every day.
Sergeant Ursula Hussey, Community Garda, then provided the background to how the local gardaí became involved with Springlawn and the positive impact this has had on the area.
“Back in 2008 after reviewing figures, we realised that Springlawn was a problematic area,” she said.
“In 2008 there were 12 young offenders in Springlawn and we wanted to see if we could address that. We decided that if we could pool our resources and work with the young people, there was every possibility that great things could be achieved.”
And indeed great things were achieved because six years on, there has been a “marked decrease” in anti-social behaviour and the number of young offenders in the Springlawn area has also fallen dramatically.
“In 2010 we held our first annual Garda Sports Day and this year we have 700 children from all the local schools participating in the event,” Sargent Hussey continued. “We were in a position to purchase a community bus with the help of the local authority and this 16-seater vehicle had enhanced social inclusion and gardaí participation in the community. It is for everyone to use. The Community Policing Unit are always looking forward to the co-operation of the public in our efforts to achieve our stated objectives. We also look forward to the continued assistance and cooperation of local authorities, voluntary agencies and the business community.”
In 2009 the Springlawn Residents Community Development Group was established. It was supported by Longford community Resources Ltd (LCRL); Longford Town Council, the Community Gardaí; Springlawn Child care Centre; ETB; RAPID and the Department of Social Protection.
The judges heard that the group formed an eight-week Pre-development Course with the aim of increasing community spirit in the area and improving the estate in general.
Resident Carmel O’Shea said, “Myself and my family have lived in Springlawn for 28 years and over those years we have seen some changes.
“We are resolving many issues now,” she added. “There is such progress here and it is a wonderful place to live in.”
“We are very impressed by what we have seen here today,” William Beatty, one of the judges said.
“Pride of Place is all about recognising the excellent contribution people make to their communities.”