The Town Team recently held a gala evening for their second ever Ballinasloe People of the Year Awards in the Shearwater Hotel with almost 500 guests and community organisations in attendance.
54 nominations for people and organisations were honoured, with each nominee receiving a certificate recognising their achievements. RTE Sports Journalist & Broadcaster Darren Frehill hosted the event, which was sponsored by the Credit Union, the Shearwater Hotel and KPW.
The Town Band under the baton of Noel Madden welcomed attendees with a fantastic symphony performance before everybody could move to the Plaza Suite for the event.
Seamus Duffy, the Chair of Ballinasloe Area Community Development (B.A.C.D.) opened proceedings welcoming everybody and updating the gathering on the Town Team’s projects, of the past 2 years - specifically mentioning the Zombie Walk that brought a sellout crowd of over 2,100. He also reminded the audience that while the Enterprise Centre was almost sold out again – the town has no capacity for new industry and he was pleased to announce that funding had been recently secured from the Credit Union to apply for full planning permission for a new advance modern light industrial factory on the IDA Business park to be shovel ready for new industrialists. He also mentioned that the group were in the process of hosting a seminar on the possible future uses of the old St. Bridgids Hospital complex. “Our next priority is the Festive gathering and Town illuminations and I thank all those associated with the staging of the evening and the awards especially the sponsors, whilst saluting all the nominees for their work in sustaining our community”.
Adrian Ahearne the Chair of the Credit Union spoke about how their Board and organisation were very much agreed to be supportive and acknowledging all the efforts of the many group and clubs that make up the fabric of our town and community. “ The Credit Union used to sponsor the old Mayoral awards some years back as we have been anchored in the needs of our local and we know and appreciate the efforts of volunteers , in a way that no other financial co – operative does . I want to thank the organisers and congratulate the nominees and winners this evening “ stated Adrian.
M.C. Darren Frehill of Lawrencetown then took to the stage, congratulating all nominees. “I was blown away, reading some of the nominations. It feels almost unfair to single out winners,” Darren mentioned his younger years growing up in the locality and how the sports clubs were a key aspect of his formation and how pleased he was to see so many people in their sporting attire at the event.
Nominees for all categories were introduced and awarded certificates of achievements by Adrian Ahearne. An interlude for food followed, during which the local music group Pleáracá performed. The break concluded with soprano Ciara Lawless, a sixth year student in Our Lady’s Bower, Athlone, performing some well known classics.
The category winners, were then announced as follows:
Arts, Cultural and Heritage Award – Lawrencetown Community Development-Heritage & Tidy Towns Focus Group
Business Community Spirit Award – Gullane’s Hotel
Social, Community & Civic Pride Award – Ballinasloe Social Services
Sports and Recreation Volunteer Award – John Donnelly (Cycling)
Sports and Recreation Individual Award – Heather Payne (Soccer)
Sports and Recreation Team Award – Ballinasloe Itosu-Kai Karatedo Ireland
Young Person’s Award – Julianna Green & Laura Frehill
Hall of Fame – Lifetime Achievement Award – Liam Kelly
Liam Kelly received the Hall of Fame award from Tom Quinn, the winner of the award in the inaugural event two years ago.
Jacinta Divilly, Co – Ordinator of the Town Team closed the evening, thanking the crowd for their support and congratulating the nominees, especially Liam for his lifetime achievement award. “I of course want to thank our sponsors for the evening. Thank you again to the Ballinasloe Credit Union, for sponsoring the Awards once again. Thank you to the Shearwater, who ensured a fantastic evening here tonight, feeding over 480 people supper in less than 30 minutes. And thank you as well to KPW, our new sponsors for the award,” Jacinta commented.
Denis Naughten, Minister for Communications, Climate Action & Environment, got a few moments on stage to congratulate the nominees and winners. He specifically praised the young nominees and their talents. He also mentioned the Town Team’s projects, praising their continued efforts to make Ballinasloe a better place to live and work. “ between the Surmodics Investment, the e fibre project and the advance planning for new industry – the work of the Town Team is being responded to and supported by a listening and encouraging Government who will help those communities that are trying to help themselves “, noted the Minister.
A raffle ran during the evening, with all proceeds going towards the continued enhancement of the Christmas Lights & Illumination Festivities. The Tops prizes was a €500 travel voucher from Kellers Travel, which was won by Nora Flaherty.
Completely new for Ballinasloe in Autumn 2015 will be the Strengthening Families Programme (SFP); a family skills based programme which aims to improve parenting, family functioning and communication, and to prevent anti-social behaviours in teenagers, families and communities. The Ballinasloe programme is part of the roll-out of SFP in County Galway, following successful programmes in Connemara, Galway City and Tuam.
Some of the families who engage with the programme find themselves struggling due to a range of issues, such as mental health, challenging economic circumstances, history of domestic abuse, addictions, low school retention, to name a few. A number of key local agencies locally, including WRDTF, GRETB, GRD, An Garda Siochana, Department Of Education, GTM, Youth Work Ireland, and Empowerment Plus will be involved in running the programme, which is supported in terms of core running costs by the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul through the Maureen O Connell Fund.
The programme offers incentives to teens and their parents to participate and engage with the programme. Gift vouchers and spot prizes donated by local businesses that appeal to families of teens aged 12 – 16 have been very effective on other programmes in rewarding families’ engagement and highlighting fun activities that families can do together in their local area.
If you or your business would like to support the programme, please contact Jennie Swannock on 085 1685693 or email jennieswannock@eplus for further information. Any donation, no matter how small, is very much appreciated.
If you have teenagers aged 12-16 and you might be interested in participating in the programme for 14 weeks to learn new family skills, please contact Rachel Browne on 086 0273098.
We wish them all the best with the programme,
By Ciara Beresford
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