Volunteers play a vital role in fighting recession, the President of Ireland told a Kildare audience last week.
There is a saying that nothing in life is free but Leixlip Youth and Community Centre is one of many Irish institutions whose volunteering spirit disputes that.
On 7 February, President Mary McAleese visited the centre in Newtown House to see for herself the work which is being done there.
“Life does not stop because we have a General Election. Life goes on,” she said.
The President said that concerned parents had come together to build the centre.
Everyday you invest in people, she told them.
The centre, she said, was “about being friends to one another and living as good friends and neighbours.”
President McAleese said volunteerism can leverage so much and create so much good in society.
They gave the community “a whole new range of options” in doing things.
“I doubt you could do half, not even ten percent of things (without them). You need volunteers,” she said.
The premises was built by people who wanted something for their children. People volunteered to raise money. There were no pensions, no P45’s for them. “All was done for the love of young people,” she said.
“If the volunteers stopped we would not have a recession, we would have an ice age,” said President McAleese in her address in the main hall after being shown around the Youth Cafe and other projects at the centre.
“There is strength in unity but we don’t know our individual strengths until we but them together in a group. It is extraordinary what happens,” she said in a message which could easily apply to the way forward from the economic crisis.
In the centre, she said, life goes on and we believe the best in each other. We invest in family and friends.
Briefly, the background is this. In April 1989 concerned parents from both sides of Leixlip came together to seek a way of getting a premises for the youth of Leixlip. Leixlip now has a purpose built community centre built and opened to benefit the community of Leixlip. The Centre provides a youth room, community hall, kitchen facilities and rooms to rent to youth and community groups. Through its many activities run by groups in the area it fills a vital need as a community base for all ages from active retirees coffee mornings to youth clubs for those aged between 10 and eighteen. Football clubs, resident associations, and special interest groups including such as the Irish Guide Dogs who use the centre for training their dogs, all use the facility. Leixlip Town Council, Kildare Youth Services & Breaking Through all have administrative offices in the Centre. It has seven voluntary Board members, one full-time and five-part time staff as well as ten regular volunteers - and received a civic award for Social Achievement of the Year from Leixlip Town Council as voted for by the people in the community.
This year it is designing an outdoor walled garden space to include a wall mural.
To develop the youth cafe further it has a professional artist working with the 15-17 year old group over the next four months.
Those taking part will design and create art work in various art forms for their youth cafe as a result of a grant National Youth Council of Ireland