Athy Transfer Story: Volunteering at its best

Athy ULG has a wonderful story to tell about volunteering and intergenerational work with the Good Practice and volunteerism to the fore supporting our older people within our society due to the worlds, famous friend Covid-19. Back in 2019, Athy ULG had devised an action plan to deliver on 4 work programmes under the headings Governance, Intergenerationality, Young Volunteers, Corporate Social Responsibility, with many actions assigned to each programme under the Good Practice guidance of the Lead Partner and the Lead Expert. Out of the blue came Covid and set the action plan on its head, leading Athy ULG in a slightly different direction dealing with a very different set of needs.

Due to the Covid lockdown the older people within our society were told to cocoon, not venture out as they might catch the virus. This left a lot of our older people vulnerable and unable to get shopping, visit the chemist, attend the doctors or hospital appointments or even receive visits from their family.  The council set up a help call line to deal with the emerging needs out in the community. This supported  actions on the ground as a call for volunteers went out to society and Spirit of Athy was born. The Spirit of Athy group was made up of ULG Members,  Businesses, individuals, and above all volunteers from all sectors of Athy. The work was collaborative and co-operative bringing many different sectors together to deal with a common cause.  Kildare Volunteer Centre which works out of Athy were inundated with calls from people wanting to volunteer and help in their respective communities. This project was a bottom-up approach taking the need on the ground and supported by 6 businesses, NGOs, Volunteers, ULG Members, and the generosity of donations from the public to help the most vulnerable in society.


The Spirit of Athy Group had within a few short days of Covid lockdown up to 35  people that needed a substantial meal. The number grew as the lockdown went on to 75, word spread about the hot meal delivery and the social element of making sure that the older person was all right. The businesses were left with unused food, no customers and staff at a loose end. The food was prepared via volunteer chefs and staff. Volunteer were then assigned individuals in different areas to deliver the meals to and to have a social chat with them ensuring they were ok and any needs they had were brought back to the core group to be addressed.

As the number of older people requesting a meal grew, more funding to provide food for the chefs to prepare dinner was required. Donations of funding for food were given by businesses such as the Clanard Court Hotel, Athy Shebeen, Kendra Engineering, Wallace Engineering,  individuals both business and private,  Athy Lions Club, Athy Municipal District along with the Health Service Executive who provided a nominal fee towards each meal.

Spirit of Athy and some ULG member made sure that daily people received a hot meal, a social call and any fears that the older person had,  were allayed. The businesses  and volunteers played a very important role in effecting change within the community.


This transfer story delivered on the projects:

  • Corporate Social element of the project through engagement with businesses to deliver a collaborative approach to problem solving.
  • It delivered on our volunteer opportunities through the Kildare Volunteer Centre, Local Volunteering, ULG members, and NGOs. The project has forged new relationships and built on existing ones. It has introduced people to volunteering that might never have been given the opportunity to participate in society.
  • It delivered on the intergenerational element of the project through opportunities for people of all ages to volunteer and support the older person in society.

This volunteer effort could not have been predicted that coming up to a year later that it would still be in action.  Athy is on its 4 lockdown since March 2020, people are still receiving a hot meal 7 days a week with a friendly visit to the older person. If the ULG members are made aware an individual members birthday on the meal run, they will bring them a bunch of flowers and sing Happy Birthday to them. This is recorded and put up on Entertain Athy Page so family member can see them.  The ULG sent out call line numbers to every older person’s home in the vicinity to make sure if they were lonely afraid or had a problem that there were help-lines maned by volunteer, for them to reach out to such as Good Morning Kildare, Older Voices and Alone. All this information along with a manual on how to use your mobile phone to Zoom and Whats App call was done to support the older person to keep contact with their family were delivered by volunteers too. The cost of this project is in the region of €15,000. The volunteer effort is priceless and if it had not been there the project costs would have cost the government in the region of €45,000. This shows that our volunteers in society need to be appreciated.

All these measures were promoted on the Athy URBACT Volunteer city Facebook page and on Patricia Berry’s Facebook page along with receiving recognition in two newsletters circulated via URBACT and they also appeared in the local paper getting the Volunteer story out into the community. As the project draws to an end, the ULG will continue with the work around volunteerism, intergenerational working and corporate social engagement. The URBACT Good Practice has supported the work that took place in Athy and the project has been of huge benefit to the community of Athy on every level. Being part of the project has focused the group to look beyond problems and search for solutions to address the issues that arise within in the community. Much work needs to be carried out still to support the community needs and to address issues that are a constant battle in society but the ULG will continue to listen, learn, innovate, work collaboratively, overcome and deliver change for Athy. Thank you to URBACT, our Lead Partner, our Lead Expert and our other partners for the experience and the learning, the networking and learning while we have problems other cities have problems also and it is very interesting to note in ways, how different some governments and society handle situations. Even in the Good Practice and transfer learning not one size fits all.



Submitted by s.georgiou on 25/04/2021