Throughout 2018 I was delighted to feature interesting and inspiring stories from communities across Waterford city and county in this column.Many remarkable individuals and groups are contributing to their local area in a variety of ways. Here’s a brief recap of some of those who I have been fortunate enough to feature this year…looking forward to meeting and interviewing many more community champions in 2019!

Mary O’ Caroll

Mary O’Carroll (92) pictured at the Ferrybank Grotto which she has lovingly tended to for many years.

Mary O’Carroll (92) pictured at the Ferrybank Grotto which she has lovingly tended to for many years.

FOR Ferrybank residents, and many in the wider area, the well-known Grotto in Rockenham is a much loved focal point within the community. In fact, you could say the Grotto is to Ferrybank what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris or Big Ben to London. The Grotto depicts the Lourdes apparitions, featuring Mother of Christ in a halo of heavenly and St. Bernadette kneeling in front.More than 60 years since its construction in recognition of the 1954 Marian Year, the Grotto still stands in pristine condition, lovingly tended to by loyal parishioners.
One lady who is now most closely associated with the Grotto is Rockenham resident Mary O’Carroll (née Treacy)who is wife of the late Eddie Carroll who was one of those who instigated the idea of constructing such a grotto in Ferrybank. Mary’s brother Dick was also heavily involved in the maintenance of the Grotto for many years. Mary,who lives in the house opposite the Grotto, took up the baton when Dick died in the early 1980s. Her family have been an integral part of life in Ferrybank for decades, as her sister Brigid ran the popular
shop which was located opposite the Grotto.Now aged 92, Mary continues her proud association with the Grotto and can often be seen at this special location.She decorates the Grotto with colourful lights each Christmas and begins her work well in advance in November each year.Undoubtedly, the Grotto looks incredibly impressive and the care and attention which it receives is clear to see.
Dermot Dooley
DERMOT Dooley and the team involved with Touching Hearts have been enthusiastically continuing their fundraising efforts throughout 2018. The charity is striving to raise funds in order to construct a new Sacred Heart Centre. The centre, which is currently located on Lady Lane, was established in 1974 and was originally under the auspices of the Irish Sisters of Charity, but was taken over by the
HSE in 2005.It supports families of children who have varying degrees of physical and learning disabilities and is assisted by the Friends & Family Association which was set up in2006.
The Sacred Heart Centre on Lady Lane

The Sacred Heart Centre on Lady Lane

The main function of the Sacred Heart Centre is to empower children with a broad range of intellectual and/or physical challenges and their families to develop to their full potential in a safe and nurturing environment.This is achieved through the provision of an Individual Family Service Plan for children attending the MainEarly Intervention Service.However, the lack of space impacts on the provision of services
and multidisciplinary team work. For example, one small therapy room doubles up as a toddler and playgroup room which means equipment has to be moved to other areas which is very time consuming. The building also lacks appropriate facilities for hosting parent and staff training.Further limitations include the amount of staff that can be employed and the capacity to take in new referrals for children needing early
intervention.Access to the centre is also difficult as there is only one small carpark for
families, staff and buses.Dermot, who has first-hand experience of using the centre with his son Darragh, has been committed to the cause and has been engaged in numerous activities associated with fundraising and awareness.Communities throughout Waterford have shown huge support and hopefully the reality of a new centre will soon be realised.