Minister Kathleen Lynch officially opens Gilbert Centre, Mallow

The Minister of State with responsibility for Disability, Equality, Mental Health and Older People, Kathleen Lynch, officially opened the not-for-profit, multi-agency Gilbert Centre in Mallow Community Campus last Friday. The centre has opened up new worlds of opportunity for people with physical and/or sensory disabilities living in the north Cork area. This includes facilities such as an independent living skills kitchen, accessible gymnasium, a clinic for people with low vision, aids and display room where service users can try out adapted equipment, personal care rooms, IT training rooms, a roof top garden and social inclusion and education programmes. A job coach can also be accessed through the facility. Referral is through any one of the agencies that operate out of the centre.

Friday was the culmination of many years work by committed people and organisations. A public meeting was held in February 2002 in response to public demand for better facilities and resources for people with disabilities in the north Cork area. A steering committee chaired by the Southern Health Board (now HSE South) and comprising the two lead agencies Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA), the National Council for the Blind in Ireland (NCBI), representatives of people with disabilities, voluntary and statutory agencies, local community access and development groups set about the task of listening and responding to the needs of people with disabilities in the north Cork area.  In 2003, a needs analysis identified a lack of accessible community facilities for people with physical and/or sensory disabilities. The Gilbert Centre is the positive and innovative response to the needs identified some eight years ago.

Through this purpose-built centre, service users enjoy the benefits of one of the most modern facilities in the country, where the internal build environment was designed specifically to meet the requirements of people with physical and/or sensory disabilities. It is a community based facility that promotes inclusion and partnership among agencies. This cutting edge facility would not have come to fruition without the donation of a site from the Mercy Sisters, generous donations from agencies and funding granted by Dormant Accounts, Pobal and the Health Service Executive South.

Speaking about the Centre last Friday, Kay Cronin Centre Manager said: “The Gilbert Centre is the result of the vision and commitment of the steering committee, community groups and the different funding agencies in recognising the need for development of services for people with physical and/or sensory disabilities in north Cork. The Gilbert Centre is example of a positive innovation in partnership and co-operation between agencies and we hope that this project will be a model for other towns and communities to follow. This is a great day for people with physical and/or sensory disabilities in north Cork who finally have a centre where they can influence and take ownership of the development of their own services.”

Before unveiling an official plaque Minister Lynch said: “It is heartening to see the results of the commitment and enthusiasm of a community in creating this state of the art accessible facility. It is testament to what can be achieved by organisations, local groups and individuals by working together in a very focused manner for the betterment of the wider community”. The Gilbert Centre was named after a member of the original steering committee, Agnes Gilbert, who passed away before the centre was completed.

Also last Friday, Tom Cronin presented a cheque for €700 to Kay Cronin, Manager of The Gilbert Centre. Mallow Credit Union has generously sponsored phase two of the Sensory Garden Project at the Gilbert Centre. Ms. Cronin said that the service users of the Gilbert Centre would really benefit from this funding. Phase two of the project will consist of vegetable and fruit boxes, which will be wheelchair-accessible and will enable the services users of the Gilbert Centre to grow their own fruit and vegetables.

Mr. Cronin, who is a keen gardener himself, said it was a great initiative and he wished all the service users well with this project.

The service users of the Gilbert Centre would like to thank Mr. Cronin and Mallow Credit Union, Tadhg O’Riordan and J.A.Woods Quarry and Mr. Tom Barry T.D.for their support of this project – it is much appreciated.