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‘Battery Belles’ brush up on their DIY skills at B&Q training workshop

A corner of the B&Q store in Athlone hummed with chat and laughter last Wednesday, as a group of women from Battery Heights took part in a workshop which taught them how to make planter boxes for a community garden in the Athlone housing estate.
The women took to their task with great relish. “I think they know as much as I do, if not more,” said Declan Keighery, who was their instructor at the store in the Arcadia Retail Park.
This workshop was the latest step in the Westmeath Independent’s ‘Get Involved’ project. This initiative involves local newspapers highlighting the work of a community group – in our case, the Monsignor McCarthy Family Resource Centre in Battery Heights.
In recent months, the centre has worked with local residents to transform a strip of wasteland into a community garden decorated beautifully with hand-crafted tile mosaics.
When we visited during last week’s workshop, Ann Westman Elazir, Nora McEvilly and Sheila Duffy were hard at work crafting their wheelbarrow planter boxes.
Ann explained that the women, and their friends in Battery Heights, were known as the ‘Battery Belles’, and one of the new mosaics in the community garden bears this name.
When asked how she was finding the workshop, Nora McEvilly replied: “It’s fun. It’s nice to know that we’re able to do it. I didn’t think I had the brains to do it!”
She said community initiatives like this one “are giving us ideas… they’re bringing us places and showing us how to stand on our own two feet.”
The coordinator of the Monsignor McCarthy Centre, Sheena Lawless, said it was grateful to B&Q, which has “agreed to come on board with both the family resource centre and the residents’ association to help us to develop the community and surrounding areas within Battery Heights.
“From a community point of view, it’s a fantastic opportunity to get training for free. Obviously with all the cutbacks, everybody’s trying to be as creative as possible in learning new skills,” she said.
The ‘Get Involved’ initiative is still ongoing, but already plans are in place for Battery Heights to also enter a Tidy Towns ‘pride of place’ competition next year.
“We’re really hoping the community will take ownership of the grounds surrounding the houses and that (the estate) will become aesthetically more pleasing to the eye,” said Sheena.
B&Q Ireland went into examinership earlier this year and, for a time, it looked as if the Athlone store would close. Lorraine Garvey, a supervisor at the store, said it was seeking to ‘give back’ to the local community.
“The community has obviously supported us through the examinership so I think this will be good for everybody. At the end of the day, as a community, you always have to stick together.”
She said in-store DIY classes for members of the public had commenced recently, and this was something B&Q was planning to develop and expand as time goes on.

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Battery Heights strides ahead with ambitious project

‘Get Involved’ community initiative nears completion

Turning a strip of wasteland into a beautiful community garden is no easy feat, but that hasn’t deterred the residents of Battery Heights who have been making great strides with their ‘Get Involved’ project.

Earlier this summer the Monsignor McCarthy Family Resource Centre was chosen as the Westmeath Independent’s ‘Get Involved’ project and was selected following an applications process advertised in the newspaper. Their entry will see an area of wasteland transformed into a community garden for all, complete with handcrafted tile mosaics made by the residents themselves.

Get Involved is a community initiative that sees community groups have their activities highlighted in local and regional newspapers across the country. A reception will be held in Arás an Uachtarain for the winning entries in September.

The award-winning architect and well-known TV presenter Duncan Stewart will chair the national judging process and will be assisted by judges from provincial regions.

Residents and volunteers have been extremely busy over the past couple of months and since the Westmeath Independent last visited the area, the walls have been whitewashed and the mosaics have been completed, with most of them already adorning the walls.

Shrubbery has been planted and on Thursday of last week Midland Stone had just made a delivery of stones to the area, which will cover the pathway between the allotment and the wall adorned with the mosaics, which was previously overgrown.

The area being transformed by the residents is located in the upper most part of Battery Heights and Monsignor McCarthy FRC Co-ordinator Sheena Lawless explained that three years ago the centre approached the council to see if it could take ownership of the piece of land, where it hoped to locate a men’s shed. A greenhouse was erected on the plot of land in 2011 but this was damaged and as a result the men’s shed was moved to the back of the family resource centre and the plot of land was instead used as an allotment.

The community, assisted by the resource centre, is now tackling a piece of land adjacent to the allotment, which had been attracting dumping and anti-social behaviour and so far has added spectacular colour to the area, with the project now nearing completion.

It was initially planned that there would be six mosaics created by six different groups and while the completed mosaics represent six different aspects of the community, Sheena explained this week that the project really brought the whole community together, with everybody contributing to all of the mosaics.

The ‘Battery Belles’ women’s group’s mosaic contains lots of cups and saucers and teapots, representing a group that began by meeting once a week over a cup of tea and is now playing an intrinsic role in the community and is often the driving force behind many of the activities.

Another of the mosaics represents the allotment and shows the various vegetables that are grown there. The Family Resource Centre’s mosaic contains a butterfly, which is also contained within the logo of Monsignor McCarthy Family Resource Centre.

One of the mosaics shows the sun, moon and stars and Sheena explained that this represents the dreams, aspirations and hopes of the community. Another represents the different sporting interests of the community and shows the Sam Maguire Cup, a football, two hurls and a sliotar, a rugby ball, a dart board and darts and boxing gloves.

The project has evolved along the way and while initially it was planned to decorate the wall of the allotment with fish mosaics created by the Kids in Training Together group, these fish mosaics will now adorn the back wall of the area, while the community has other plans for the allotment wall.

The project has brought on board more than just the community of Battery Heights, with offers of help from volunteers and many local businesses offering products/services free or at discounted prices.

Sheena explained that one man who recently moved from Dublin to take up a job at Ericsson will now help residents to make furniture for the allotments. She said after moving to the town he researched some community initiatives and offered to help make furniture for the allotments out of pallets, with the furniture set to hang from the walls in the allotment.

Sheena thanked Brendan Gaffey for clearing out the strip of land, as lots of weeds and topsoil had to be removed as part of the project. Local tile companies Right Price Tiles, Graphic Tiles and Doyle’s provided the community with old tiles for the mosaics.

She thanked Midlands Stone for the stones for the community garden as well as PJ’s Florist in Rochfortbridge for providing flowers at a discount as well as Dooley’s, which is helping the community to plant climbing roses which will frame the mosaics on the wall.

This week B&Q will hold a workshop for members of the community to teach them how to make planters for the garden and feeders for birds. Staff at B&Q are also going to help with the green area in front of the family resource centre house and it is planned to create a grass mosaic in this space, with mannequins to represent the family.

Sheena commended all those involved in the project this week, saying people have been putting in eight and nine hour days and said all of the students and those on CE schemes are owed hours as this stage! She also thanked Nuala O’Brien from Westmeath VEC for all of her help.

She said the project has really brought the community together and the residents have learned a lot along the way.

“We’ve really realised the importance of doing a project that’s going to involve all of the community or as much of the community who want to be involved,” said Sheena.

She added that the push is on now over the next couple of weeks to ensure the project is completed before the end of the month.

While the mosaic and garden area are set to be finished, the project has sparked new ideas for the community and it is now hoped that ‘A Wish Tree’ will take pride of place in the area, which was previously just wasteland. Sheena explained that the idea of the wish tree will be to have special cards, on which residents can write their wishes or thoughts and these will be tied to the tree with ribbons. The community also hopes to create a memorial mosaic for the wall in the allotment, which will remember members of the community who have passed away.

With lots of ideas and plenty of enthusiasm among the community, it seems as though this project could continue to grow and grow, with hopes the residents can get help to replicate their great work in other parts of the estate.

To find out more about the project you can read further updates in coming editions of the Westmeath Independent or look at Monsignor McCarthy’s Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/monsignormccarthyfamilyresourcecentre. You can also see details on this and other projects on the Get Involved website www.get-involved.ie

more on the Busy Bees Garden Project supported by the Waterford News & Star

Link below to more from theBusy Bees Garden Project

http://www.waterfordchamber.com/index.php/member-news/1774-community-digs-in-to-breathe-life-into-busy-bees

NNI LOCAL AND REGIONAL NEWSPAPERS AND REGIONAL NEWSPAPERS AND PRINTERS ASSOCIATION OF IRELAND (RNPAI)

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