Local Faces: Debbie Lee Byrne
LIKE many businesses, community centres experienced tough times keeping their doors open during the Covid-19 pandemic and now into recovery.
It is people like Debbie Lee Byrne, manager at Fettercairn Community and Youth Centre, and her tireless commitment that have allowed community centres to keep providing essential services and group activities to everyone in the community.
Having lived in Fettercairn for over 40 years, Debbie Lee Byrne took on the role of manager at Fettercairn Community and Youth Centre last October, after spending 14 years volunteering on the board of management and as chairperson of the board.
“I have been finding it great, I have a very good board that I work alongside, and they are very encouraging and supportive of me,” Debbie told The Echo.
“I couldn’t ask for a better team behind me, they really are the salt of the earth. The CE and Túsla staff are absolutely amazing as well.
“Our chairperson, Brian Kelly, has lived in the community for over 40 years as well and he volunteers for everything.
“He is just absolutely fabulous and will always stop to talk to people in the community and get them involved.
“I am the manager of the centre, but it is the people who are behind the scenes who have been holding the community centre up.”
Speaking about her role as manager, Debbie said: “My role would be the day to day running of the centre.
“I link in with all of the groups and the service users, linking in with the community and checking to see what they need.
“If a member of the community came in looking for support it would be my job to point them in the right direction so they can avail of that particular support.
“If a parent came in looking for clubs for their children, it would be my job to find one that suited.
“I organise different events alongside our fantastic events committee which is made up of different community members.
“We will hopefully be running a summer project this year from July 25 to August 6 to try get the summer project back up and running after Covid.”
Speaking about the difficulties and strain that the Covid-19 pandemic had on the centre, Debbie says they are still feeling the knock-on effects as we recover from two years of extreme hardship.
“We are now trying to get as much of the community back into the centre after Covid, because we find an awful lot of the community are still suffering from the isolation,” she said.
“We are dealing with the knock-on effects. We want the older people in the community to feel safe again and get them back in to the centre as well as new people who moved into the area during Covid who know nothing about the area.
“It is hard and that’s why we are hoping that this summer project and running a family day will bring the community back together again.
“We have a lot of diversity in the community centre, and we have people who rent spaces from us as offices and we have the health project, the drug clinic, a creche, coffee dock, and Foróige, who run different groups.
“We also have the groups that come in such as the twirlers, darts, St John of Gods, Taekwondo, gaming club, HeadsUp and we have our church that comes in every Thursday.
“There really is something for everyone – our main thing here is social inclusion and diversity. It is a place that anyone can come and enjoy something,” said Debbie.
Speaking about her hopes for the future of the centre, Debbie said: “We have a very good community here that wants to encourage the kids in the area to get involved in the centre.
“One of our goals down the line is to get better wheelchair access into our community gardens so we can start running some tea parties for middle-aged and older people.
“The community gardens here are absolutely beautiful so we want people to be able to come and enjoy it.
“Another one of our plans is to get our Men’s shed rebuilt so going forward for the future we can get our men back into the men’s shed and back up and running.
“We are just hoping down the line that the community will link back in as much as they can with the centre.
“We have seen a huge rise in youths coming back in, and the Foróige team are working very hard on the ground to link in with people and all of the clubs are really reaching out.”