More than 250 people from community and voluntary groups from all around County Galway were honoured at the County Mayors Awards Ceremony last weekin the Lough Rea Hotel and Spa. The awards recognise and celebrate community and voluntary activity around County Galway. Eleven awards were up for grabs after a public call for nominations was made back in September.
The final award and highlight of the night was the prestigious Volunteer of the Year Award, won by John Martin Griffin from Ballymoe. Mr Griffin works tirelessly in the Ballymoe area and according to his nominator is a “renewal of hope in a small rural community”. He pioneered the opening of a heritage store which also won the Community Enterprise Award and he volunteers much of his time to work in it. He is secretary of the Ballymoe Development Company and a board member of Glenamaddy Credit Union. He co-ordinated the Ballymoe Town Twinning with Boystown, Nebraska in the US and was a key player in developing a four year plan for the Fr. Flanagan Community Centre. He is now helping to organise a festival for the Gathering 2013 and also volunteers his time with the writers group, drama group, gives farm talks, computer training, and helps with summer camps and indoor soccer.
The first award of the night, the Corporate Social Responsibility Award, was won by Electronics Concepts Ltd in Oughterard. The award is a new category this year which recognises the contribution that the private sector makes to communities. Electronics Concepts regularly make donations to community groups, especially to sporting groups.
The second award, the Community Enterprise Award, was won by Boystown Heritage Store in Ballymoe. The award recognises groups who have developed enterprise initiatives in the community. Boystown Heritage Store was opened with the idea of bringing back old style local shopping to resist the decline of a small rural community. It is staffed by volunteers and they are hoping this award will help drive their motivation to expand the enterprise.
The next award, the Environment Award was won by the Green Schools Committee of Gort Community School. They currently have three Green Flags and are working towards securing a fourth. They have recently installed a new rainwater harvesting system and six solar panels and the students are involved in many environmental projects including helping out with Tidy Towns Activities.
The room erupted when the talented Johnny Coen took to the stage to introduce the Sports Award. Johnny is a member of the Galway Senior Hurling Team and is the 2012 GPA Young Hurler of the Year. The award was won by Athenry Community Games for their efforts to increase the number of young people taking part in sport. They organise annual community games and parish sports with over 1,200 young people involved in 2012 in 20 different sports. They were recent winners of the under 14 Team in the All Ireland Community Games and they also received “Best Area Award” in 2012 Galway Community Games.
The next award of the night was the Arts and Culture Award. This category was hotly contested with Portumna Arts Group coming out on top. In 2012 they organised their Annual Shorelines Festival, took park in Culture Night and the Galway Cuirt Festival and held poetry workshops in Portumna Castle.
Glinsk 100, a sub committee of Glinsk Community Development Society won the next award, the Heritage Publication Award, for their work in researching and recording a century in the life of the Glinsk Community (1912 – 2012 ). Every family in the area was encouraged to research their own heritage and history and the book ‘Glinsk 100’ was published. They are now using the information collected to organise an event for the Gathering 2013.
The Schools Contribution to Heritage Award won by St. Augustine’s National School in Clontuskert, recognises the efforts that schools have made to celebrate and promote the heritage of their area. The students in the school intensely researched the 204 Ring forts in the Parish of Clontuskert. They made a podcast, blog and film about the ringforts and engaged with experts to help them.
Clifden 2012 were the winners of the coveted Best Contribution to Heritage Award. Clifden 2012 is a year long celebration of the 200th anniversary of the town of Clifden. The highlight of the year was a week long festival at the end of May with a jam packed programme including talks, walks, documentaries, dramas, exhibitions, a traditional boat regatta, street market, street theatre and street party, to name but a few.
The Intergenerational award, introduced to mark the 2012 European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations was won by Clann Family Resource Centre in Oughterard who organised intergenerational activities between younger and older generations. “Lets Trade Stories” and a community garden were two of their flagship activities during the year.
The Dolmen Centre in Kinvara was the winner of the Social Inclusion Award. The centre gives people with an intellectual disability a chance to explore their creative side. They make crafts to sell at the Kinvara farmers market. This has helped them learn new skills and compete on an equal footing with the other stalls in the market.
Speaking about his experience since taking up the office of County Mayor, Cllr Thomas Welby stated “Nothing prepared me for the level and quality of community work that is being undertaken by individuals and groups throughout the county and this office has allowed me to see it first hand”. After the ceremonyMayor Welby congratulated all the winning people, groups, and organisations, adding “I know it’s a cliché but you are all winners tonight and I urge you all to keep up the good work.”