Who said volunteerism is dead?

Looking out at the deluge of rain that is hammering our office window at the moment, it’s hard to imagine how the thousands of Tidy Towns volunteers across the county kept the enthusiasm for the task in hand this year given the depressing and atrocious weather we’ve been experiencing.

We’re told there’s to be no Indian summer so it will be back to sunnier climates for many people this autumn for some vital vitamin D intake.

But in Westport, they will be revelling in their phenomenal success in the national Tidy Towns competition having taken top honours for the third time.

Last Monday’s announcement of seven awards for Westport, including the award of Ireland’s Tidiest Town, is testament to the commitment and dedication these volunteers give year in, year out.

Their dedication and service in ensuring Westport is top of the pile when it comes to beautiful towns is unwavering and they must be admired and applauded because everyone in Mayo is truly proud of their ongoing achievements.

Westport’s undisputed beauty, its welcoming nature, its reputation as a warm and inviting place to spend a relaxing weekend or action-packed adventure holiday are just some of the reasons that the seaside town is renowned worldwide.

There’s nowhere better to spend a warm summer day (remember what they were like ) than strolling around Westport with a 99 or climbing the sand dunes in Bertra or even passing through with the car window down listening to the accents of all the nationalities who vacation there on your way to Louisburgh and onto Leenane for a Sunday drive.

What I love about Westport is the way everything is a community affair. The Tidy Towns committee are 25 dedicated people, but up to 100 can be credited for the town’s ongoing success. “It’s a religious process,” explained committee PRO Frank Dolan. He actually admitted it was embarrassing the praise which is lavished on the committee given the amount of people who in their own personal time and without prompting collect litter on the streets of Westport. It is a whole-town affair and something which is ongoing 52 weeks of the year, not just when a visit from the Tidy Town judges is imminent.

This sense of community is prevalent in all aspects of Westport life. Destination Westport were a group of local businesses who came together to market and promote Westport as a tourist hotspot. These competing businesses were able to see beyond their primary rivalries and sit around a table and work as one unit to attract holidaymakers to their beloved town.

The Tidy Towns volunteers are made up of business people, retired people, the young and old who have dedicated their lives to ensuring Westport remains a leading force in this highly respected competition year after year, and boy have their efforts paid off. Ireland is a beautiful country, how could you not be proud to be Irish, and we in Mayo are extremely proud of the part our county contributes to Ireland’s renowned reputation. Imagine being a Covie, a Westport man or woman, and the feeling of pride they feel this week. Ok, the economy isn’t doing so well, tourist numbers might not be what was expected this summer, people continue to lose their jobs each week across the country, but we need to look at the positives, maintain our dignity and self-respect, and winning accolades as prestigious as the National Tidy Towns award is something to be cherished and celebrated during these times.

And who said volunteerism is dead? Because it’s alive and kicking in Westport and across Mayo. Congratulations to all involved.

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