Last Wednesday marked a huge day for the families of Knockmay and Portlaoise with the official opening of the resource centre and community childcare facilities at the An Treo Nua centre by the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins.
Greeting President Higgins was chairperson of Treo Nua Sr Rioghnagh McHugh, who introduced the Board of Management and staff.
Next the President was shown around the bright rooms of Suaimhneas Community Childcare by childcare manager, Carol Donohue. He was treated to a tune by more than 30 of the preschoolers who sung “I’m Special” for the occasion. The toddlers, not to be overshadowed, put on a special performance of their favourite game ‘Crocodile’, and were applauded by President Higgins for their efforts.
Then it was upstairs to the community room, where local families, staff from other resource centres, TDs Charlie Flanagan and Brian Stanley, local politicians and the chairperson of the Family Resource Agency, Sharon Foley, were gathered.
Sr Rioghnagh said the resource centre originally started eight years ago, operating from local authority houses in Knockmay.
“We have come a long way since then and have developed our services to support families from all over Portlaoise. We now have a state of the art childcare facility with full day care, preschool and afterschool services catering for more than 100 children. I would like to thank President HIggins for officially opening our new premises and for helping to make this a truly great occasion for this community,” she said.
President Higgins then took to the podium, where he spoke about the difference resource centres can make to communities.
“Different families at different times have different needs. That’s what resource centres are for. A place of welcome and support for young and old. We have returned to what is most important, it’s not resources, but people, Every person is full of potential, from the day they are born to when they draw their last breath,” he said.
The President said he was delighted to see TDs and councillors there.
“We must all work together. I fully appreciate a centre of this calibre doesn’t happen overnight. This investment of time, energy and commitment is a true reflection of real citizenship,” he said, officially declaring Treo Nua and Suaimhneas open by unveiling a plaque.
President Higgins was also presented with a carved piece of bog oak by local artist ‘Para’, representing the family.
Treo Nua offers a range of services to Portlaoise families, including low cost counselling, youth groups, homework clubs, volunteer tutors for exam students, parent/toddler group, meditation group, women’s group and training courses.