Search and rescue, flood relief and snow operations, the Kerdiffstown Dump fire, the Kildare County Show, the St Patrick’s Day parades, Discover Athy Day, TriAthy, the Ploughing Championships and every local community sports day or event in the county. The Kildare Civil Defence was there, it will always be there serving the needs of the community.
Next month Athy Town Council is to hold a civic reception to acknowledge the invaluable hard work of the Kildare Civil Defence and its many, many volunteers.
Civil Defence Officer Ms Patricia McNeela says it is an honour and privilege to be recognised in this way. “Everyday is a different day and you do not know what it is going to involve. To be able to know that you can help people. And their is great friendship too when they need help or are in distress. Even for community events, a field day or that, we assist with traffic control. Every day is different,” she explains.
All 70 members are volunteers. “Recently we had the snow this year where we did a lot of work getting food to people isolated, getting public health nurses to their clients, hospital runs. With Kerdiffstown fire we assisted the emergency services with welfare and feeding the firefighters. We were out there for 21 days.”
Kildare Civil Defence also plays a key role in the community. It is an umbrella organisation of Kildare County Council and it receives 30 per cent of its funding from the local authority. “When we go out and interact with the public it’s good for organisations to know we are there so the event can run smoothly,” Ms McNeela explains.
Athy man Jim Byrne, a volunteer for nearly two decades, has a passion for volunteering. “You get institutionalise I suppose into it,” he jokes. “You get into it and every day is a different day and when you get that phone call it could be anything.”
Lil Doyle looks after the welfare catering unit that recently fed the firefighters in their battle against the Kerdiffistown dump. (The burgers were a big hit!)
It is impossible to pinpoint the number of people Kildare Civil Defence have looked after since its founding in 1950.
“We are out every weekend just for ordinary community events. That is without the big incidents. The likes of Kerdiffstown fire we were out for 21 days doing the welfare aspects of it. The likes of Oxegen and Electric Picnic it is a five day,” Ms McNeela explains.
Athy man Mr Byrne adds: “The civic reception is a recognition of what we are doing and the work you are putting in. During the flooding in Athy, for example, we were putting in 17 hours work a day, you know what mean, it’s alot. Recognition is a boost to the morale of the members.”
With the recession there has been an increase in volunteers, which McNeela says, is very encouraging and positive. “People because they have no work or have no time on their hands they would like to give hand aswell. It is on the increase and it is a positive development. You welcome as many volunteers as possible.”
The Kildare Civil Defence is always busy, quietly working away.
“TriAthy is next. Then the Derby is the last weekend in June, that is the Friday, Saturday and Sunday we help out there. We finish on the Sunday. Then we go down to Waterford city on the Wednesday for the Tall Ships. We finish there on the Sunday and we are only back and we are into Oxegen then the next Thursday.
“It is busy and that is without the small community events that might come in the meantime. Everything counts. And I have to say the volunteers enjoy it because they are getting training and they put that training into practice with their duties.”