Invaluable community heroes

Four years ago Laois Community Forum decided to dedicate a night to acknowledging and thanking those community and voluntary groups who do so much behind the scenes in our county.

Four years ago Laois Community Forum decided to dedicate a night to acknowledging and thanking those community and voluntary groups who do so much behind the scenes in our county.

On our first night we half filled the John Paul 2nd room in the Portlaoise Parish Centre but each year since the numbers have been growing and on last Wednesday night there were 74 certificates presented to a wide variety of organisations and individuals.

The second year we ran this event the Forum introduced a new award for those unsung hero’s in our community and this has proven to be the section which provides the largest number of nominations.

The Unsung Hero section is a great mechanism for communities and organisations to publically acknowledge and thank individuals who give so much and look for nothing in return.

This year we had a staggering 24 nominations with Maura O’Gorman from Clonaslee receiving the title of Unsung Hero 2012.

Listening to the activities the groups and unsung heros were involved in brings home just how much work is done and the level of services which are provided, quietly and without fuss through out the county in a voluntary manner.

When this is compared to those services which are formally provided by the State one soon sees that a vast majority of what is done in our communities is actually done by the community and voluntary sector. Which begs the question would we be better off devolving more autonomy down to the communities, giving them the budgets directly to allow them develop and provide what is needed in their own areas rather than the central government approach which does not always get it right?.

Judging by the talent, the ingenuity and determination of those groups and individuals who were present the answer would be a resounding yes.

One of the main initiatives of the government to help stimulate the tourism industry is the “Gathering” which will take place during all of 2013.

How successful or otherwise this initiative is will depend greatly on the efforts of the community and voluntary sector.

Laois for some reason has always been overlooked as a tourist destination but there is a determination among the community and voluntary groups that next year will be our chance to show case Laois to a greater audience with all of us putting our best foot forward.

With festivals and reunions, the ploughing championships, our county looking great, we will be doing our best to ensure that those who visit us from the 4 corners of the world will go away delighted with their experience of a warm welcome, tremendous entertainment, excellent food, delightful scenery and most of all value for money. It is hoped that those with commercial interests and who will benefit from the different events will show restraint in the prices they charge.

For Laois Community Forum this has been one of our best years ever. We had the great pleasure of partnering with the different organisations and state agencies to deliver the “Laois Connects week of positive mental health”.

This involved talks, walks, films, youth days, cookery demonstrations, laughing yoga and arts activities which culminated in a much appreciated and successful week. So successful was this week’s events that other counties are now following our example and we have been asked to organise this event again next year.

To all who helped organise and participate in these events I would like to say “Thank you” because your actions have helped to save lives.

We would like to thank the Leinster Express, Laois Sports Partnership, Laois County Council for their support of our Awards Night and to congratulate Mr. Liam O’Neill on being honoured as Laois Person of the Year, an honour he well deserves.