26 Jan 2022

PICTURES | Spirit of volunteerism alive and well in Longford

The Longford Volunteer Centre Awards 2021 were presented at a gala function in Longford rugby club on Thursday, November 11.

Gerry Smyth, Longford Volunteer Centre Coordinator, said there were a huge number of nominations and he thanked and congratulated all award winners and the volunteers that were nominated and that are involved with their chosen causes throughout Longford.

Mr Smyth added, “Everyone can volunteer, whether you are young or old, male or female, unemployed or working a full-time job, and whether you are rich or poor. What volunteers give to our communities is the biggest commodity of all, their time.

Mr Smyth said volunteering helps foster greater understanding and tolerance between different groups in society.

He told guests, “It plays an important part in breaking ignorance and prejudice to help fight against poverty and social exclusion.

“And in these tough economic times, voluntary activities often provide vital support to the most disadvantaged. Moreover, volunteering can be a source and driver of social innovation, mobilising people's energy and creativity to develop new solutions to problems and make best use of the limited resources available. It stands to reason that those who know the most about what is going on at the local level, are those who are active at ground level – and this naturally includes volunteers.”

Longford County Council Cathaoirleach Cllr Peggy Nolan presented the awards and Mr Smyth also expressed thanks to LCRL CEO, Adrian Greene and the Board of LCRL, the Department of Rural and Community Development, Sean Regan the SICAP Coordinator and Volunteer Ireland, and his colleagues in Longford Community Resources.

Longford Volunteer Centre Award Recipients 2021

Animal Care

Hungry Horse Outside: The Hungry Horse were awarded for services to neglected animals and educating on the responsibilities of equine care.

Arts, Culture & Festivals

Gene Rhatigan: Gene is a local artist who, amongst other things, volunteers tirelessly as chairperson of the Cruthú Arts Festival and is at the forefront of enriching the town with exciting cultural and music events, exhibitions and installations.

Campaigning & Activism

Ann O’Leary: The campaigning and activism award goes to a local lady who is constantly raising funds for her son Ben's School, St Christopher's. (Fundraising for St Christopher’s Autism Unit)

Children and Youth

Patrik Nistor: Longford Youth Service volunteer worker Patrick is a champion for his community and he has assisted youth workers in reaching out to members of the Roma community.


Phillip Butler (Abbeyshrule Tidy Towns): Phillip’s commitment and hard work, along with his fellow committee members and locals, has created the jewel in Longford’s crown that is Abbeyshrule.

Health and Well-Being

Lough Ree Access for All: The Lough Ree Access for All boat has provided an adapted integrated water based experience for people with disabilities for the very first time and in turn giving unlimited access to the waterways of Ireland.

Safety & Emergency Services

Bernie Reilly: Her work over the years with the Civil Defence has seen her treat many casualties when needed and volunteers as a trained first aid responder with local cardiac life-saving groups.

Social Inclusion and Community Support

Joint Recipients - Christy Shiels, Brendan Duggan and Butch Nevin (MacEoin Park Residents): The lads have took it upon themselves to clean & tidy the estate in MacEoin Park, they cut all the grass in the area as well as picking up rubbish etc., and all the while using their own equipment.

Sports and Recreation

Catherine Reid (Leebeen Park Recreational Facilities): Catherine was involved in developing the gem of north Longford, Leebeen Park in Aughnacliffe and toils away in the background and her commitment has ensured the success of ongoing development of the park.

Services to the Elderly

Tish Quinn (Friendly Phone Call Service LCRL): As the longest serving continuous volunteer with the friendly call service Tish has selflessly given her time for many years reaching out to some of the more isolated in our community.

Covid Groups Awards

Midlands Polish Community: were at the forefront of the campaign to make sure frontline staff had sufficient personal protective equipment and their community rallied together working tirelessly by making masks, scrubs, aprons etc. and donated hand sanitisers to various local charitable groups. On top of this they are very active in their work on Polish-Irish integration and are now well established in the midlands as a very hard working, and inclusive, community group.

Longford Counselling Services: Are a not for profit organisation who provide low cost counselling and psychotherapy to those in need and their services were in greater demand more than ever during the pandemic and they stood up to the plate when the need arose.

Covid Individual Volunteer Awards

Brendan Murtagh: Brendan highlights the needs of the Syrian community in Ballymahon to relevant agencies in a bid to get additional support into the area and gives his time voluntarily helping the SICAP and Youth Service teams to support integration to the local community.

Mary Lillis: Described as an outstanding role model to many in the Longford Girl Guides, Mary’s dedication to the cause ensured that during the Covid pandemic she stuck with the girls and kept spirits high even through lockdowns. She is the organiser and main leader of both Ladybirds and senior branch of Irish Girl Guides and hopes to open up other units soon.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Joint Recipients - Brian and Charlie Murray: Brian and Charlie come from a family of volunteers who know the importance of community and inclusion and who have endeavoured to create a space where people are welcomed and included.

They produce an annual show which over the years has raised many thousands of euros for local charities.

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Over €2.5m in financial support has been allocated to eight Longford schools under the Summer Works Scheme, forming part of a near €6m investment in education, infrastructure and travel this week

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