Shortly after the news first broke that the Coronavirus had arrived in Ireland the committee discussed ways in which the Athenry Community First Responders could assist the members of our community through this unprecedented event. The group set out to establish a subcommittee that would facilitate shopping and collection of medications and other essential items for those who were not in a position to do so due to the coronavirus. This subcommittee consisted of eighteen CFR group responders who were members of the Athenry CFR Group, Craughwell & Ballymanagh CFR Group, LCDPM CFR Group or Turloughmore CFR Group.

We designed a flyer highlighting the services that we were willing to provide during the weeks and months ahead. Local Councillor Shelly Herterich Quinn came on board and funded the production of 5,000 flyers. These flyers were then given to Michael Hannon of An Post to be distributed from the Loughrea District Postal Office to the homes of those that postmen and postwomen felt were the most vulnerable in our community. This was later followed up with an additional 3,000 flyers provided free of charge by A&T print.

Once the flyers were delivered, we had many calls from people in our community who were eager to assist with our efforts. This resulted in 10 additional people coming onboard to help us assist the community. These new people consisted of members of Athenry Soccer Club and other volunteers from the community. Each of the volunteers were then Garda vetted thanks to Donnacha and the team in the Galway Volunteer Centre.

Our co-ordinator has spoken on Galway Bay FM to Keith Finnegan about the efforts of the group and we have had notices printed in The Connaught Tribune and The Galway Advertiser.  We received our first call on Friday 27/03/2020 and now 62 days later we have logged a total of 508 calls. These calls involved queries, collection of medication, requests for shopping or requests for check-ins by people living alone or separated from their families.

During this time, we have seen tremendous community spirit. Firstly, we are extremely grateful to Gráinne O Flaherty from O’Flaherty’s Pharmacy who kindly donated a substantial amount of facemasks, gloves, hand sanitizer and aprons to the group. We also got a donation of a number of boxes of gloves from Louise Hynes of Sticky Fingers Creche. 

We even surprised ourselves with how effective we were in finding solutions to requests that did not involve shopping or medication. We have assisted with getting an electrician to a cocooner, bleeding a boiler, contacting a solicitor for a cocooner, provided reading material for people cocooning and even delivering the belongings of a deceased nun with her family.

We received a call from a nun living in Dublin. She got in contact with the group after seeing our number online. She informed us that she lived and worked with a nun from the Athenry area in Sligo many years ago. The Athenry nun had passed away in 2006. When the caller was moving to Dublin a short while later, she came across some photographs and documents belonging to the deceased. She tried many different avenues over the years to get the items to the family, but all attempts failed. We received a text on the 15th of May from the family to confirm that they had received the package.

Normally this time of year we rely heavily on our community to support us at our annual church gate collection and flag day at Joyce’s. This year we are returning the favour and helping the community that has so kindly supported us over the years. 

On behalf of the committee I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who volunteered to assist us in helping our community during this difficult time. Thank you all for giving up your time to complete shopping, collect medication and complete drop offs to the people in need. Our calls have seen us deliver to people in Loughrea, Craughwell, Clarinbridge, Oranmore, Claregalway, Knockdoe, Turloughmore, Attymon, Kiltullagh, Monivea and everywhere in between.  

We shall continue to provide this service while it is needed. If anyone needs our help just get in contact via Facebook, Twitter or contact our co-ordinator Gearóid on (087) 1717783.