Often applied in a family context, the phrase ‘Home is where the heart is’ also sits comfortably in relation to the ever-beating pulse that is the Community House at Elm Park, Clonmel.
The House, officially the home of the very active Residents Association, is the epicentre of so much that happens in the 306-house estate and throughout the parish of St. Oliver’s.
No. 286 Elm Park acts as a conduit to many programmes and projects in the locality involving young and not-so-young, and the 14-strong committee do tremendous work for the general good of all residents and the area.
The Community House itself is up and running about 20 years but the Residents Association’s tenancy with the Borough Council has only been taken over since June of 2012.
According to Cllr. Darren Ryan, chairperson, “the multi-purpose Community House is the hub of the Association. Not alone do we hold all our meetings here but it is also open to others to use.
“Any agencies that want to come into the estate to meet the community come here,” he said.
“Two weeks ago, for example, we had Marie O’Gorman, Housing Officer with the Borough Council here. Marie met people in their own community so to speak, and it benefited everyone”.
“The Elm Tree Elderly Project Group also come here and at morning times it is used as a drop-in where residents can decide to meet up if only for a cup of tea.”
“It is,” he stressed, “somewhere that adults can come and have space. Basically anything that happens involving Elm Park, happens here,” added Darren.
Others to avail of the facility for their meetings are Elm Tree Community Centre, Elm Park Community Youth Club committee, Southside Youth Project committee, South Tipperary Foroige, and Cllr Ryan himself rents it for his clinic.
Helen Sweeney, who controls the purse strings as treasurer of the Residents Association explains how the House is completely self-funding with all monies raised by the Association going towards the upkeep, heating and lighting. “We run a 50-50 draw in the estate once a month and it keeps the door open.”
The staff in the Elm Tree Community Centre are of great assistance to the Community House and in particular “Johnny Campbell, Eldon Ryan, Stephen Murphy and Deirdre Landers, to whom they are very grateful,” said Helen.
Community spirit, self belief and a willingness to work hard for the common good are traits clearly evident when talking with committee members. “Give-and-take and helping out each other are what we do,” said Helen.
The Residents Association committee have secured almost €240,000 over the years in RAPID programme grant aid for a community playground, multi use games area (MUGA) and outdoor gym.
“Some other areas in the town weren’t ready to take the funding, but this committee was. We stood up and said whatever you have we’ll take,” said Darren. Good planning pays it seems.
And planning ahead Darren outlined that Halloween will be a particularly busy period in the estate with an under 10s fancy dress disco in the Centre and also a Ghost Scary Walk around the estate on the Wednesday night before Halloween.
This year we are also planning a Service of Remembrance on Halloween Night.
Darren explains “As a community we would have lost a lot of young people over the years. On the night, to remember them, we will be releasing, from the rear of the Elm Tree Community Centre, white helium-filled balloons on which relatives can write a message.”
Mary Furlong, PRO and also a founding member of the Residents Association along with Darren Ryan and current secretary Deirdre Landers, discussed one of their biggest projects of the year, the annual Christmas Party.
Each year Elm Park Residents organise a Christmas Party at Hillview for 130 seniors from all over the town. It costs €3,000 to €4,000 annually to stage and the funds come from a well-supported door-to-door collection throughout the estate and generous donations from the business people of Clonmel.
“The senior citizens are collected, brought to Hillview, attend Mass and are provided with a delicious four-course meal, dancing with Stefan Grace and a present,” added Mary, herself 25 years a resident in Elm Park.
This couldn’t or wouldn’t happen without the generosity of the door-to-door collection around the estate, and also the assistance of John O’Donoghue, the Civil Defence and Red Cross for transport and Croi na nOir (Abbott Social Club) who generously donate the money to buy all the presents and personally hand them out on the night. Not forgetting the three chefs from Kickham Barracks to which the Association adds “we miss Kickham Barracks so much.”
Clearly there is a world of work and good coming from the committee at the Community House in Elm Park. Having said that, treasurer Helen Sweeney said “we would like to see one or two young people, over the age of 18, coming on the committee because they are our future and we would encourage that.”
But with such a positive attitude and with the commendable work ethic of the existing committee there is no concern at all for the future.
The Residents Association comprises: Darren Ryan, chairperson; Maria Ryan, vice-chairperson; Deirdre Landers, secretary; Helen Cagney, vice-secretary; Helen Sweeney, treasurer; Eileen Egan, vice-treasurer; Mary Furlong, PRO; Siobhan Fogarty, Laura Mullins, Breda Mullins, Suzie Farrell, Ita Dorney, Emma Furlong and Eddie McGee.