Thriving community centre in the heart of the town is growing

Eamonn Wynne

Eamonn Wynne

A multi-purpose centre for people of all ages, which has been a hive of activity in the heart of Clonmel since it opened over a year ago, will have much more to offer the local community next year.

A €700,000 extension, the reurbishment of a building next door that’s currently under construction at the Place 4U Community Centre in Morton Street, is expected to be completed by the spring of 2013 and will be open for business by the summer.

By that stage the range of activities at the former Nun’s Chapel in Morton Street will be expanded for the benefit of the people of the town and surrounding area.

The former chapel, which is a protected structure, was handed back to the Bishop and the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore 10 years ago. A group of interested people met and decided that the building would be used for the benefit of the local community and the Place 4U Trust was formed.

“As the name suggests it’s a place for you. It’s performing a service as an outlet for people of all ages”, says Trust director Michael Lavin.

The building was refurbished at a cost of €200,000. It opened its doors in August of last year and has been a great success.

In a large, bright and bustling room, where the ornate stained glass windows and the strip of ceramic tiles that run along the floor are a reminder of the building’s former life, people meet over a cup of tea or coffee and socialise while taking part in different activities from Monday to Friday morning of each week. These include art and paper craft, computer classes, chess, yoga, ceramics, family tree genealogy and storytelling, a memoir-writing workshop and a book club. Free WiFi is also available, as is a service where you donate a book and take one in return.

“There was a notion at the beginning that the centre only catered for the older age groups but everyone is welcome,” says Michael Lavin.

The youth haven’t been forgotten and Place 2Bee, a club for teenagers and young adults, opened in the same building at the beginning of the year. It currently meets on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings but once the extension at the adjoining building in Gladstone Street is completed Place 2Bee will take complete ownership of the Nun’s Chapel while Place 4U will be accommodated next door.

“As well as a providing a place for the young people to meet we hope it will become a base to foster their artistic ability and give them independence within a supervised area”, says Michael Campbell, the Place 4U chairman.

He says that the new building will also be an amenity for the people of the town and for the many deserving causes in the community. These will include separated people (usually fathers), who may only have access to their children at weekends. They will be able to meet their children in the centre and avail of the kitchenette and living room in an atmosphere that will resemble home.

The top two floors of the new building will be purely commercial with rooms available for rent and hire to defray expenses.

The extension has been approved for a generous grant of €500,000 from the South Tipperary Development Company and the Trust is confident of making up the €200,000 shortfall. In the last few years the centre has benefited to the tune of €22,000 from the €63,000 that the Clonmel Veteran Vintage and Classic Car Club has donated to local charities.

A generous donation is expected from the staff of Boston Scientific, whose chosen charity for 2012 is Place 4U, while Sepam and Clonmel Borough Council have also weighed in with their support.

“People’s generosity has been amazing and there’s so much goodwill for the centre”, says Michael Campbell.

Place 4U is run by volunteers on a non-profit-making basis. Most classes are free but people are requested to buy a cup of tea or coffee to cover daily expenses.

“FaS worker James Ryan makes an enormous contribution to the centre. He works way beyond the call of duty and is most helpful and courteous. We also have a great team of volunteers who include 30 women who run Place 4U on a voluntary basis”, Michael Campbell added.