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Pride of Place

Sun shines as Kilmeedy demonstrates its ‘strong beating heart’ for Pride of Place

First Published: Norma Prendiville , 30 July 2018, Limerick Leader

Pride of Place judges Tom and Alison Dowling, seated at table, with locals in Kilmeedy during Monday’s judging Picture: Keith Wiseman

THE tiny rural community of Kilmeedy scored a national first when they held the first, open-air presentation ever made to judges in the Pride of Place competition.

The judges, Tom and Alison Dowling, were delighted with the decision, even though it made it more difficult for them to see the many slides and videos illustrating the community’s achievements.

And by opening with a poem from local poet Joe Healy, Kilmeedy marked itself out as a community with a difference.

“There is something uniquely special about this place,” Tom Dowling beamed, to the great delight of the scores of people who had gathered for the presentation and to demonstrate their support for and sense of pride in their community.

“You can feel it, see it, hear it in the passion of your presentation.”

Earlier, that passion rang through the contributions made by different members of Kilmeedy Development Association as they spoke with pride and feeling about Kilmeedy’s history, its farming culture and businesses, its sporting success and dancing nights in the Glenside Ballroom and especially, the measures that had been taken to halt decline in and revitalise this small, rural community in the heart of West Limerick.

It was, by any measure, a story of turning adversity into opportunity. An empty house in the village was transformed into a community centre.

The vacant Garda barracks were taken over and converted into a creche and after-school club as well as a hub for a range of community employment schemes. A long neglected garden became the opportunity for a different kind of garden, an intergenerational garden and a symbol of compassionate community.

The track leading down by the side of the school has become a Boreen Walk, complete with grass down the middle, wild flowers at each side and a delightful duck pond, with four downy ducklings at the end. There too, blacksmith Martin Myles, now in his 80s, can be found, still plying his craft.

There was pride too in the voluntary housing schemes that had been put in place to offset the drain of people out of the parish and in the Rambling House which draws people to the village every month.

And the roll-call of involvement continued through a newly formed youth club, an Active Aged club, a Heritage Group, a Walking Club, a Tidy Towns committee, an active Comhaltas branch, an All-Ireland winning Scór group and a Vintage Club, the GAA and the soccer club and Community Games, all contributing to sustaining social and community life in Kilmeedy.

“The strong heart-beat of our community belies its small size,” Siobhan Reidy said in her presentation.

But, as development association chairman, Seamus Murphy pointed out, a key factor in the renewal of Kilmeedy has been the development of Local Training Initiatives based in the village.

Both the Healthcare and Childcare course and the Horticulture Course have been bringing scores of people into Kilmeedy each day and providing them with new careers and new pathways in life.

Later this year, the judges were told, the hope is to expand the horticulture course to include food hygiene, hospitality and retail and provide a garden to fork experience.

This will also tie in neatly with the very ambitious project to develop a community shop and café in what was the former post office, Siobhan Reidy explained.

This building has now been leased and work on transforming it is underway. It will provide an outlet for food producers in the area, provide a shop in a village which has seen all its shops close as well as a social hub across all generations.

The commercial kitchen will also be available to local food producers, Ms Reidy added.

“There are a few challenges ahead,” she continued. “But I believe the future for Kilmeedy is exceptionally bright.”

Kilmeedy is the helping hand always held out, she added, the people who stop to water the flowers on their way home from work, the coaches who give of their time, the people who turn up to make the tea and coffee at funerals.

“It is the sum of all these groups and individuals that weave the rich tapestry that is Kilmeedy. It is an unique and wonderful place.”

Mr Murphy, summing it up, said: “We have achieved more that we should if you look at the size of the parish.”

Kilmeedy is entered in the population category of of 1-300 people in this year’s Pride of Place competition which is run by Co-Operation Ireland and the local authorities.

Other entries from Limerick are the Children’s Grief Centre in the Communities Reaching Out section and Limerick Civic Trust in the Creative Place category.

The winners will be announced in November.

Kilmeedy village looking to the future…

Limerick village looking to the future as work starts on community shop and café

A MAJOR milestone in Kilmeedy’s journey of community building was passed this week with the beginning of work to develop and open its very own Community Shop and Cafe.

The project, spearheaded by Kilmeedy Community Development Group, will see the former Geary’s shop and post-office re-imagined and reshaped for community purposes.

The big hope is that it will bring new life back into the village and serve as a focal point for activities across all ages. Ultimately too, the backers hope it will help small enterprises in the area to develop.

Like so many rural communities, Kilmeedy has lost a lot of services over the years. Just 30 years ago, it had three shops and two pubs but about 12 years ago, the last of the shops closed and now just one public house operates.

“The absence of a shop for everyday essential supplies has made life difficult for residents of the village, especially for the elderly and those without transport,” explained Siobhan Reidy of the Development Group which determined to change all that and investigated the idea of a community shop and cafe.

Market research was carried out, the premises was identified and a lease obtained, and the work of costing the project was undertaken. A submission for Leader economic development funding proved successful, yielding €96,000 or 50% of the cost.

“The shop and café will provide a place to buy essential, householditems and a place for all who live and work in the area to meet and chat, have fresh and nutritious, locally sourced food and high- quality barista coffee,” Ms Reidy said.

Up to 140 people a day come into Kilmeedy either to work or to take part in childcare or horticultural training programmes and these people, it is hoped, will provide a regular stream of customers to the facility.

“The shop will provide a space for local producers to sell their goods, while the café will provide training and employment opportunities and act as a production kitchen during off- peak hours for local food producers,” Ms Reidy explained.

The plans will also see the shop building linked to the adjacent Aras Ide, the training centre, opening up both buildings for a number of multi-purpose functions, including social get-togethers.

The Development Group also hopes that the new community cafe could be used on specific evenings or nights as a youth centre. This would address the lack of facilities, other than sporting facilities, for young people in the area.

The hope is to have the work complete and the shop and cafe up and running by the autumn. Meanwhile, Clann Credo Community Finance is providing bridging and loan finance, while the Development Group spearheads a fund-raising campaign to raise its 50%.

Shay O’Riordan, CEO West Limerick Resources; Mike Boyce, Consulting Engineers; Seamus Murphy, chairman of Kilmeedy Development Group and Cllr John Sheahan | PICTURE: Dave Gaynor

Source Credit: LimerickLeader.ie , Norma Prendiville , 18 Mar 2018

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