Leaving a community legacy for future generations
LOCAL HEROES: Slane's Maeve Carbin
Slane village is on course to have its newly built community centre up and running within a year, and it is due in no small part to the vision and determination of Donegal native Maeve Carbin. As chairperson of Slane Community Centre committee, Maeve has been a driving force behind the project with her role being very much to get the best out of everybody involved.
The mother-of-four, whose children were very young at the time that the idea of a new community centre for the town was first mooted, became keenly aware of the lack of public space in the village when her children grew to an age to engage in extra-curricular activities.
"Anything that did get started, didn't stay going for long, because they were in the parish hall and it just wasn't suitable … and if you wanted your children to do anything, you had to get into your car and drive them, which I didn’t think was great for a village the size of Slane."
Maeve took matters into her own hands and linked in with Slane Community Forum – a group set up to revive Slane during the recession - and the parish priest at the time, Fr Joe Deegan, she made some calls and held a community meeting specifically about the community centre seven years ago.
"I knew that there had to be the expertise within the community, there had to be the talent there and the expertise there to get a community centre together," she said.
A committee was pulled together from that initial meeting with people who put their name to the project, making a commitment to get things going. They met each month from then on and there was a lot of work initially Maeve recalls, as they had to start up a company and register as a charity, with a lot of administrative work to be done in the background like sending questionnaires to community groups to check out local needs.
From there, they started fundraising, which peaked when it held a Monster Draw that raised €100,000. Then they looked for a suitable site, which involved negotiating with the bishop to secure a lease for a site adjacent to the national school - an ideal site it was thought as it is central to the village and nearby housing developments, it could have ample parking and the facility could be used by the national school during the day.
Next up was to secure grants for the build. Maeve explains that the Community Centre has received two grants to date but is still hoping to secure a third grant in the near future. Next on the agenda was architect drawings in order to get planning permission and go to tender to get a builder on board.
Then just as everything was ready to go with contracts signed with a builder in early March 2020, COVID hit and the last couple of years were fraught with delays. Not to be deterred, Maeve and her trojan team used this time to continue fundraising efforts. "We now have a monthly draw with 200 members who pay €20 a month with prizes to be given away of €1,000 per month," Maeve explains, while also holding a couple of Golf Classics which over the last two years, raising a total of €90,000 in that period. "This was great because it has meant that we were in a stronger financial position when everything was opened back up again."
At present, builders are on site and set to finish the first phase of the project – the building - by the end of the summer. "That is half a million euros worth of work that will be finished before the end of this summer. And you know, that's a big achievement," she says.
The external area and the internal elements will require another grant and some fundraising to complete, but Maeve is hopeful that this will all be forthcoming in the next few months. "We are always on the look-out and always fundraising," she says. "We are nearly there. I'm hoping that by this time next year, we'll be in there and we'll be up and running. We'll have an actual sports facility and meeting rooms and everything else that goes with having the community centre up and running in the village."
Maeve moved to Slane 17 years ago as a young mother of one baby girl, with husband Michael. They had set up a solicitors practice in Ratoath and they wanted to live somewhere within easy reach of their workplace, and they really liked what Slane had to offer. Before long Maeve got involved in the community, using her legal background on the parish finance committee to get more involved in parish life and, also volunteered with the school parents' association.
When Maeve started this labour of love, her youngest child was just two. When it finishes, he will be the only one of her children still in national school, to get full advantage of it being linked to the school, but this is not of significance to her. "It is something that will be there for generations. It will be there for our children and our children's children. And this is our legacy to future generations," Maeve says proudly.
"I end up being the face of things, but there is a big team of people who are behind all of this, because nothing happens in the community, without lots of people getting involved. It is very much a thing where we work together and that's how you get things done and recognising the talents within your community and pulling them together."