Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Coffee morning to raise funds for ‘essential’ new bus

By Lorraine Murphy

The Annebrook House Hotel is hosting a coffee morning on Friday, March 8 from 10:30 to 1pm as part of Irish Wheelchair Association’s major fundraising drive to secure a new bus for the Mullingar fleet.

For many of the 33 members from Mullingar and surrounding towns and villages, the bus is their only way of getting to and from the centre in Springfield where they participate in a wide range of programmes including creative arts, crafts and exercise classes.

Bill Masterson, program assistant driver with the Springfield Centre for the last 25 years, told Topic why a new bus is needed.  “We have four buses at the moment but one bus is very much in need of replacement. We will have to spend a lot of money to keep that on the road so we’re actively pursuing funding to help us get a new one and the cost of replacing and fitting out a Ford Transit bus is €50k – that’s if the price holds.”

Bill takes care of the fleet, ensuring the buses are road worthy and maintained. “The buses are essential, it’s the only word I can use. Without the centre, some of these people would be at home full time. One of our ladies describes it as a home from home and it is – it’s a second home. We have a large amount of service users and we go to Castlepollard, Rochfortbridge, Tyrellspass and on out to Kilbeggan serving a lot of nursing homes too. The average run is two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening depending on where you go. The service users will be in here at 10:30am and stay until after 3pm and drivers are doing double runs to get them here for as much as the day as possible. All sorts of stuff happens here including a debate on the latest referendum planned for next Thursday. The service users love it here.”

Irish Wheelchair Association is one of Ireland’s leading representative organisations and service providers for people with physical disabilities founded on the belief that everyone should be able to live a life of choice and equality. Recently, Topic called in to a pottery class in the Springfield Centre to chat with the people who are affected – the service users – to find out what the service means to them.

Stella Martin from Mullingar was deep in concentration painting her pottery piece. “I like coming here because then I won’t be left at home,” she said. “The bus is so important to keep this office running.”

“It is very good here,” Gabriel Leavy added while working on a trinket box. “I come in on the bus on Wednesdays and Thursdays from Rochfortbridge. There are great services. The staff are very good and the chat is great.”

Carla Kelly also comes in to Mullingar from Rochfortbridge.  “The bus makes a great deal of difference because not everyone has transport and without the bus service we’d be left at home which you can’t afford to do,” she said. “At home, you just sit there thinking but when you come here you are around others, having a laugh and doing activities, then go home feeling relaxed again. It is a safe place to come and enjoy yourself.”

The buses don’t just collect people and transport them to a centre, it opens them to a world of activities, according to Carla. “We go on trips when we have the buses, we do Tai Chi, we make crafts, we don’t just sit here doing nothing. Coming here gets us out of the house and be more active. I can’t wait for Wednesday to come every week.”

Fergus Ennis nodded along with Carla’s words. “I love it here,” he added. “It gets you out of the house and you get to meet people. We’re doing computers tomorrow and we had Tai Chi today. There’s always something going on and the chat and the staff are very good.”

“The bus makes a big difference to me, it means a lot to come together,” Philip Kirby from Mullingar said.

“And he’s single,” fellow service user, Micheál Dalton joked to an eruption of laughter amongst his fellow crafters. Micheál comes to the centre from his nursing home by bus every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Micheál isn’t single, he’s taken,” someone replied and the craic continued around the table.

All are welcome to the coffee morning and raffle in The Annebrook Hotel on Friday, March 8 and all donations are appreciated. “We have received help in the past from local organisations which was so helpful,” Bill said. “If there is anyone out there that’s willing to make a contribution, no matter how small, we would be delighted.” 

For more details on the event contact the Irish Wheelchair Association, Mullingar at 044-9347511

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