THE strength of community and importance of voluntary work to making Laois a better place to live was the overwhelming from the Laois Voluntary and Community Awards 2012.
More than 74 groups or individuals were nominated for the six award categories. The nominee varied in size, pupose and location and represented almost all aspects of community life.
The Unsung Hero Category attracted the most nominations but it was Maura O’Gorman from Clonaslee who was chosen as the winner.
The judges said that apart from her tireless wor for many local organisations such as the Tidy Towns, Maura leads by example.
“She is a friend to all and her interest in her local area never tires; she will always have a positive influence on a plan or a proposal for the community.
“People like Maura are held up as example of true community spirit, and the people of Clonaslee would agree”.
Maura told the Leinster Express she was overjoyed by her win.
“I am overwhelmed to be honest, I wasn’t expecting this at all. I am absolutely thrilled and delighted to receive it. The Clonaslee Community Devevelopment Association nominated me.
“I suppose, they feel that I have worked so hard and tirelessly over the 30 years to bring Clonaslee and the Tidy Towns so far as well as with other organisations fundraising and other things.
She said volunteering is critical for communities.
“You do it for your community and you get great reward when you get good results. Last year we won the overall prize at the Laois Tidy Towns Federation Awards. I enjoy doing what I am doing. We have a great community spirit so it is an honour to receive this on their behalf,” she said.
The next most competitive category was for the Community Services & Support Award which was won by the Portlaoise Parish Centre.
Declan Kelly accepted the award on behalf of the centre.
“It is fantastic to be recognised and accept this on half of the parish and to be among so many other other distinguised nominees especially such a group as the Laois Arch Club which does a huge amount of untold work,” he said.
Mairead Hickey, accepted the Sport and Leisure award on behalf of St Annes, AFC, Ballylinan which has 180 playing members.
“We are delighted that we are a team very edge of Laois winning an award like this.
“Our clubhouse was built voluntarily and we only had to pay for materials,” said Mairead who was described by her husband Paul as the Unsung hero of the club.
Mary White accepted the Heritage & Envirnoment Award on behalf of the Abbeyleix Tidy Towns.
She said the award proves that Tidy Towns is much more than pretty flowers.
“It is fantastic to win because, it (Tidy Towns) is not just about window boxes and hanging baskets,” she said.
Marina Rafter accepted the Culture and Heritage Award on behalf of Abbeyfest, the Abbeyleix-based community festival.
“It is a great endorsement and acknowledgement of all the hardwork done by the committee who have put Abbeyfest on the map. It will help us moving forward and helps makes sure that Abbeyfest is a permanent fixture on the Laois cultural calendar,” she said.
Mary said the group are involved in everything from encouraging food producers and gardening, developing the the local bog and putting together eco tourism business plan.
Emma and Sarah Nolan, accepted the Children & Young People: Winner - Graiguecullen/Killeshin Parish Youth Ministry Group.
“The award gives us an idea of the type of work we are doing. We didn’t think that other people would appreciate it that much,” said Emma.
“The Youth Ministry in the parish is involved with the youth choir, eucharistic ministries, charity work. The two of us have been out to South Africa with the Niall Mellon Township Trust. Another girl worked with the street children in Calcutta last year,” said Sarah.