Volunteers who make the world a better place on so many fronts

They’re the unsung heroes at the heart of their communities and sports clubs; quietly carrying out all of the thankless tasks that ensure the wheels keep turning – and as BERNIE NÍ FHLATHARTA discovers, they feel they get as much as they give.

It is often said, if you want something done, ask a busy person – so being too busy to help out in the community is probably not an excuse, though it’s one many of us have used at one time or another.

Sporting activities for young people is probably the busiest aspect of extra-curricular activities in community life — yet the same cohort of parents appear to volunteer to keep the show on the road.

That show can be GAA or soccer, or any other after school activity that involves training or practice sessions. And no matter how organised the clubs are, the day-to-day running would collapse without that cohort of volunteers…mostly, but not always, parents themselves.

With increased population and more and more girls taking part in field sports, you would imagine that clubs would be swarming with volunteers but in reality it seems to be harder than ever to find parents willing to commit to the routine of training sessions, jersey laundry or car-pooling.

It is often the glue that holds a community together and research has shown that as well as benefitting the community, volunteering also benefits the volunteers themselves.

Salthill man Pete Kelly is one of those volunteers. A founder of Salthill/Devon football club, a soccer player since he was a schoolboy and now chair of the club, he appreciates the importance of parents getting involved, even if it’s only during the years their own children are playing.

“I really don’t see the drawbacks. There might be a bit of reluctance on parents getting involved thinking it’s a life commitment or that they’ll be drawn into committees.

“It is getting harder to find parents interested in volunteering which means a smaller group of people end up helping the club run its activities. But we really appreciate everyone who helps us. We don’t expect people to volunteer for life, but we honestly couldn’t survive without them,” he says.

In other words, Pete doesn’t expect people to give the lifelong commitment that he has but his attachment to the club goes back since he was a boy.

In fact when he was a boy playing for what was then called the Salthill Athletic Club (in 1977 it became Salthill Devon, the teams trained in Salthill Park — what is now a green public space across from Salthill Prom — where the club rain the popular Fives event for forty years.

Pictured: Pete Kelly at the Salthill Devon F.C. clubhouse and grounds in Drom East, Rahoon.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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