The Longford branch of the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) resource centre in Kenagh first opened its doors nineteen years ago in February 2000.
Prior to this centre’s opening, and for the ten years in the lead up to its opening, Longford IWA had a base in Aughnacliffe. Since making the move over to Kenagh, despite initial difficulties transporting members, the centre has gone from strength to strength.
For Martin Tarmey, service coordinator and manager of the resource centre in Kenagh, it offers much more to the area than solely an outlet for those with disabilities.
He told the Leader, “Our day centre in Kenagh acts is a hub of information, a place where people can get advice, seek support and learn new skills by taking part in programmes, activities, and social events.
“The centre is open to all people with different abilities and not just those confined to wheelchairs. It is a fabulous hub, connecting the community.”
After first joining the service in 1998, Martin soon became immersed in all it had to offer. Although he is present to help improve the lives of members in any way possible, he admits they are all now friends rather than members.
“We change their lives and that gives me the confidence and energy to keep going.
“They don’t have to participate in anything if they don’t want to. They can come in, have a chat, have the craic, play pool, do what they want really.
“It is a fabulous place for them to come to. The families are so happy when they are here, because they are very well looked after. Without this, people have nothing else.”
The centre now boasts approximately 30 members from throughout Longford, with a specially modified kitchen, disabled toilet, classrooms, offices and a pool table.
They also take on many members of the locality as part of Community employment schemes and on work experience, helping them progress in their careers. If anyone holds an interest in helping out at the resource centre, contact Martin on 087-7764871.
Martin said, “Approximately 80% of my staff over the past number of years are from Community employment. Without Community employment, this centre would not run.
“The work experience people get here is great too. They get a lot of training. When they come in, I train them in Health & Safety, Service and provision practice and I do a first aid course with them.
“When they leave here, they go with certificates and can move onto other jobs,” he added.
The centre offers each member the opportunity to do things which are of interest to them and staff will do everything in their power to help them with any issue. Not only does the service help its members, but it also offers their families and friends some well-deserved time to themselves.
Martin said, “It is a great way for families to get on with their own daily living.
“Whatever the members would like to do, we try to do. We try to organise it all once every month.”
They offer programmes such as Yoga, Pilates, Computer training, jewellery making, Art & Design, Boccia & Pol Gardening, fishing and bowling to member and also undertake many trips out to different parts of the country, such as a recent trip to Dáil Éireann, courtesy of Minister Boxer Moran, a trip to Aran an Uachtarain and more. They provide not only transport, but also training, meals and social events at the centre.
Such is the dedication of the staff at the centre, they recently received their Q mark from the Excellence Ireland Quality Association (EIQA). The team at Longford IWA are currently in the process of applying for CLAR funding to the tune of €100,000, with the hopes of upgrading their current 2006 and 2008 buses, of which they are extremely reliant.
Martin explained, “The two buses we have at the moment are 2006 and 2008.
“The buses are expensive. The lifts have to be installed and they have to be wheelchair accessible. They can come in at around €60,000.
“We raise a lot of money through fundraising. It is crucial for bringing in people from throughout the community, giving them a social outlet and life really.” said Martin.
With this in mind and with hopes of purchasing new buses, the team of Longford IWA and the Kenagh resource centre have a fundraiser to remember in the works, the Longford IWA race meeting. The fundraiser event will take place at Longford greyhound track on Monday, June 24, kicking off at 8pm.
There will be a raffle on the night with some excellent prizes on offer and tickets to the race night come at a cost of €5.
Martin, “Tickets are only €5 and it is €8 to go into the dog track normally.
“It will be a great night out with plenty of food on the premises too.”
He urged the people of Longford to not only support their IWA branch by attending, but also their local greyhound track.
“I would love for the local community to support the race track, because not alone is it giving employment and is a fabulous night out, but it gives to the local communities as well.” he told the Leader.
He also wished to thank everyone who has helped out over the years, as well as his team of dedicated staff.
“I could do nothing myself without having good people around me. It is all about the team you work with. The staff are fantastic. They love their work.” he said.
“I can’t thank the community enough for all of their support.”