The 2019 Community Hero Award (in association with the Volunteer Ireland Awards) is a lifetime achievement award honouring a volunteer who has made an extraordinary contribution to a good cause over the course of their lifetimes.
Winners were announced at our Awards Ceremony in Dublin on 10 December.
2019 Winner: Patricia Keane
The 2019 Community Hero Award goes to Patricia Keane, (Volunteer with Drop in Center for Teenagers, Letterfrack, Youth Club, Letterfrack, Irish National Tug of War team. Goal, Concern, Childline, CARI Help the Homeless Fundraiser, Connemara Ambulance Crisis Committee).
Volunteering has been part and parcel of everyday life for Patricia Keane as long as she can remember.
Patricia, from Kylemore in Co. Galway, recalls that it was an interest first stimulated by her parents when she attended a local Muintir na Tíre committee meeting at the age of 13 years.
During the day, Patricia works as a part-time librarian and oversees her own business, Connemara Hygiene Services. But at the end of her working day, her volunteering day begins and for many years she has been involved in a host of voluntary activities.
When her children were going to school, she decided to do more than drop them off and pick them up. She joined the board of management of Letterfrack National School and was involved in the establishment of its first Parents’ Council thereby taking a very hands-on approach to the education of all the children in the school.
Realising the need for a social outlet for children and teenagers in Letterfrack she set up a drop-in centre in the local Ellis Hall. This was in place for a number of years and ensured that the young people had an opportunity to engage with each other in a fun and supportive environment. To this day, she remains great friends with the young people which is source of great pride and joy to her.
She has also become increasingly concerned about the supports available to children not only in her native Galway, but across the country. So, she set up what has now become an annual Watersports Day at Glassilaun Beach with funds going initially to the ISPCC and, more recently, to Children at Risk Ireland.
When she was moved by stories of homelessness or domestic violence at home or stories from abroad of natural disasters such as a famine, earthquake, or tsunami, Patricia was there to help raise funds for those most in need, including organising a 24-hour badminton marathon and undertaking fundraisers with traditional musicians.
When she heard about an elderly neighbour who had an accident at home and was waiting nearly two hours for an ambulance, Patricia sprang into action. Patricia learned that if the nearest ambulance is on another call, people in Connemara could be waiting between two to three hours for an ambulance, and then they would still have to travel for another hour and a half to hospital. For Patricia this is unacceptable. She decided to set up Connemara Ambulance Crisis Committee to spearhead a campaign to locate an ambulance in Maam Cross. The committee has already had two meetings with Ministers for Health, and continues to lobby local politicians for action.
Patricia can also claim an international medal to her credit. She was part of the setting up of a women’s-only Tug-of War team in Renvyle which went on to join forces with a team in Cleggan, and then would proudly compete at the European Championships in Italy, where they won bronze in 1989.
Now, at the age of 65 years, while Patricia may be handing over the reins on some of her endeavours, she will continue to maintain a keen interest in the Watersports Day which continues, as well as the Connemara Ambulance Crisis Committee.
Patricia is the proud mum of four grown-up children – three sons and one daughter – and five grandchildren. Her daughter, Sharon, is also following her mum’s lead, and is very involved in the local scouting troop. Indeed, Sharon’s daughter, Aoife, has put herself forward as one of six county representatives to speak for the voices of young scouts in Galway. So, the circle of volunteering continues.
Asked why she does what she does, Patricia says: “I have my health, so I feel very lucky. I have always had a yearning to help people and to give something back. Working with me over the years has been a wonderful team of volunteers who have helped to make things happen. When everybody does it, we can make such a difference.”
It really is a case of when Patricia hears a call to action, she is there to lend her support, energy, and enthusiasm. She leads by example, and just as the flame of volunteerism was lit in her by her parents, she is passing on that torch to future generations. That is why she is such a worthy recipient of the Charity Impact Awards Community Hero Award 2019.