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‘If I could choose a job…I would choose COPE Galway’ - Áine & Richard Hickey

Mother and son Áine and Richard Hickey have helped to make thousands of nutritious meals for older people over the past 9 years, as part of COPE Galway’s Community Catering team.

Based in Ballybane, the service makes 200 meals each day, all prepared by a team of kitchen assistant volunteers and delivered by a team of volunteer drivers.

Áine has experience of both preparing and delivering meals, and feels the service provides important social support to vulnerable people.

“It’s reassuring for families to know that the service is there when someone is living on their own,” she says.

Áine first began volunteering with COPE Galway after taking redundancy. Wanting to do something with her free time, she began volunteering with different local groups through Volunteer Galway and went on to join COPE Galway’s Community Catering team with her son Richard, who has Down syndrome.

Each Monday, the duo helps the chef with fresh food preparation like cutting carrots and juicing oranges – a particular speciality of Richard’s – as well as cleaning and washing up. “Whatever needs to be done in the kitchen,” Áine explains.

The Meals on Wheels menu changes every day and clients can enjoy meals like meat, fish or vegetarian dishes with fresh vegetables and potatoes, soup and desserts. Áine and Richard help to prepare the fresh food, including that donated by local supermarkets and producers through the Food Rescue Project, which distributes surplus food to charities from its hub in Oranmore.

When not busy in the kitchen, Richard is a performer, dancer and artist with local arts groups including Speckled Egg Dance Company and Genevieve Ryan Dance Academy. He has been involved with the award-winning Blue Teapot since it began 10 years ago, completing a three-year performing arts course with the theatre company. He most recently starred in their production of ‘Oliver Twists’, performing the part of the puppet Oliver.

Áine is kept busy as well, performing with Ignite Gospel Choir and helping with Westside Community Organic Garden, where she is sometimes accompanied by Richard. But their Monday mornings are kept free for COPE Galway.

“It’s a lovely atmosphere, everyone is friendly. I look forward to going in on a Monday and meeting everybody,” says Áine, “We have made great friends through COPE Galway over the years.”

There is a great work atmosphere at the Community Catering kitchen, she says, praising the “terrific” staff and volunteers, and executive chef Geraldine Ryan.

“If I could choose a job, if I was still working, I would choose COPE Galway. We are all volunteers up there, bar a few staff, we are free to come and go so if we didn’t like it, we wouldn’t be there. But we’re all there for years, which proves it’s a very nice place to be.”