More than 300 people from community and voluntary groups from all around County Galway were honoured at the Cathaoirleach’s Community Awards Ceremony last week in the Shearwater Hotel, Ballinasloe. The awards recognise and celebrate community and voluntary activity around County Galway. Twelve awards were up for grabs after a record number of nominations were received.
Introducing the prestigious Volunteer of the Year Award, Chief Executive of Galway County Council Kevin Kelly praised the work of all volunteers around the County stating that volunteering is at the heart of community life.
"Helping others and giving time to your community is a big commitment but a very rewarding one”. After a tense build-up of clues about the person, Mr. Kelly revealed the winner as Arthur Carr from Laurencetown. Arthur founded the Galway East Life Support Group (GELS ); a support group to create awareness around suicide and make people more aware of supports available.
He was also responsible for renovating and opening the GELS centre so that people affected by mental health issues have a comfortable place to go to. He is involved in a number of other community initiatives such as the Ballinasloe Men’s Shed and the ‘Darkness into Light’ fundraiser in Ballinasloe for Pieta House. Arthur thanked his wife and family for all their support over the years.
The Community Economic Initiative Award, was won by Bridge That Gap. This relatively new group was established to promote the areas of Oranmore, Maree and Clarinbridge as a place to live, work and stay and to bridge the gap between the three areas. They have developed a website where local businesses can register to promote themselves and advertise jobs and are also currently developing a new tourism strategy based on the Wild Atlantic Way model.
Fit Town Ballinasloe were winners of the Sports Award. Fit Town is an initiative to encourage communities to come together to become more physically active. They work with schools, clubs and organisations to encourage greater participation and make it fun for the whole community. They helped Ballinasloe win Galway’s Fittest Town 2016 and are hoping to develop recreational walks and cycling trails with the prize money.
The Environment Award was won by Headford Environment Group. They held a major Climate Change conference for the West of Ireland with speakers from all around the country. They are involved in spring cleans, planting, and summer events such as nature walks and in winter they hold a number of lectures and talks to help create more knowledge and awareness.
The Arts and Culture Award was won by Shorelines Arts Festival. Shorelines is a Boutique Arts Festival that takes place in September with intimate venues and interesting locations used to host a wide variety of artistic events. It prides itself on involving the community and schools to grow the festival each year and next year it will celebrate its 10th anniversary.
Bernadette Conroy won the Heritage Publication Award, for her book ‘Strands of Omey’s Story’. This is the first book looking at the history and heritage of Omey Island, just off the cost of Claddaghduff. With help from others, she spent six months researching, collecting material and interviewing former residents of the Island for the book.
The Schools Contribution to Heritage or Irish Language Award was won by Brierfield National School Parents Association. The school organised ‘Brierfield 1916’, a commemoration day of the Easter Rising with every class in the school involved.
Milltown Heritage Group was the winner of the Best Contribution to Heritage Award. The group produced a Milltown Heritage Trail Booklet and Map Boards to go with it. They organised ‘A Taste of Milltown’ event with all things Milltown on display and worked with the Tidy Towns group to develop an award winning river walk.
The next two awards of the night were to recognise the efforts groups are making to promote and increase the use of the Irish language in both the Gaeltacht and non-Gaeltacht areas of the County. The Gaeltacht category was won by Oireachtas Chois Fharraige 2016 and the non-Gaeltacht category was won by Clubanna Óige Spleodar Bhaile Locha Riach, Bhéal Átha an Rí agus Úaráin Mór.
The next award of the evening, the Youth and Age Friendly Award was won by Killimor Recreation & Fitness. The group formed to redevelop the grounds of the old national school into a multipurpose sports campus to allow members of all ages in the community use it and become more active. A soccer tournament was played last year on the new astro turf pitch to raise money for Pieta House. Their next goal is to open a children’s playground.
Headford Yarnbombers were the winners of the Community Service Award. They created a yarn installation for the Square in Headford during the ‘Nestling Lark’; a pilot project for the Galway 2020 bid. Over 300 people took part from the ages of 5 to 95 including the schools, retirement homes, nursing homes, families, business people and even a few tourists!
Speaking about his experience since taking up the office of Cathaoirleach, Cllr Michael Connolly said “I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and working with many communities around the County and witnessing all the great work that you do”. Cllr Connolly congratulated all the winners and thanked everyone for their hard work, urging them to keep it up for 2017.