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13 Aug 2022

Volunteering is key to making our communities a better place - DLDC chairman Patsy McGonagle

Railway heritage project one of the success stories highlighted in Donegal Local Development Company annual report

Volunteering is key to making our communities a better place - DLDC chairman Patsy McGonagle

Volunteering is key to making our communities inclusive, resilient, and equipped to deal with the toughest challenges - that’s the message from Patsy McGonagle, the chairman of the Patsy McGonagle, Chairman, Donegal Local Development Company.

In its annual report for 2021, he stressed just how at the heart of every community in Donegal, social enterprises, community groups, and volunteers have delivered services and supports to the most disadvantaged, marginalised, and isolated members of society.

He stated: “They mobilised in the face of mounting social isolation during the most challenging lockdown periods.  As we now move from a period of crisis to recovery and reconnection, we need our communities to be inclusive, resilient, and equipped to deal with the toughest challenges. 

“Volunteering is the key to making this happen. I greatly encourage people to share their time and talent to support their local community group. When those with local knowledge are motivated to deal with local problems, communities thrive. We have more significant influence and achieve a far wider-reaching impact by working together.”

The annual report highlights the fact that a total of 262 people were placed in various part-time, full-time and self-employment roles with the assistance of DLDC.

Success story

An example of one of the success stories during the year was the part funding of restoration works The Donegal Railway Heritage Centre (Donegal RHC), located in Donegal Town.

It approached the LEADER programme to seek funding for its restoration of the Drumboe steam engine and upgrading works to the Railway Museum. This project focused on restoring the Drumboe steam engine, the last train to operate in the county, back in 1959. There were two main phases to this project: restoring the steam engine itself and building a new presentation platform and canopy at the museum.

Donegal RHC made history in October, when the first original Donegal steam engine returned to the county. Separately, the museum itself received an upgrade in preparation for Drumboe’s return.

Throughout the LEADER application process, the Donegal RHC liaised closely with Donegal Local Development CLG, who provided excellent assistance with in bringing the application together.

Niall Mc Caughan Manager Donegal RHC, said: “This project was a real opportunity to save something unique to Donegal and to restore it to its former glory. DLDC helped us understand what the funder is looking for in an application. The LEADER team was patient with any delays associated with the Covid-19 pandemic and shared substantial funding application knowledge with us.”

Report highlights

The DLDC report also noted how more than 400 people took part in job activation and social inclusion schemes, and a total of 474 new volunteers were placed in community organisations.

The report also outlined how €791,500 in European Union LEADER funding was claimed by projects in Donegal, and how there was a €2.2m investment in Donegal in the form of programme staff time and programme initiatives.

Furthermore, a total of  €684,720 of external funding was secured by social enterprises with DLDC support.

Forty-six social enterprises benefitted from intensive one-to-one support, including strategic and business planning, governance and fundraising,and 109 community groups were supported to tackle social exclusion. 

Padraic Fingleton, CEO, DLDC, added: “2021 was another remarkable year for community and voluntary groups. It was also a tough year for many of us, both professionally and personally.  As we worked through the second year of the pandemic, we saw new challenges arise to replace those before them.  

“However, Donegal community groups proved their extraordinary resilience and adaptability and volunteers turned out in force to do whatever they could to help. It is important that we recognise and celebrate that contribution.” 

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