There is an instant warmth when talking to father and daughter Tex and Louise Callaghan. It’s easy to imagine the chats to be had when they make their weekly meal deliveries for COPE Galway on Friday afternoons.
The pair began volunteering with Community Catering’s Meals on Wheels and social enterprise Meals4Health services three years ago, at what was a time of change and transition for both father and daughter. After Louise was diagnosed with a chronic spine condition in 2019, she had to take some time away from her almost 20 years of work at University Hospital Galway. She intends to return to work in the near future. Tex, meanwhile, was looking for a volunteer opportunity when he retired after 34 years on the road as a sales rep for Galway Crystal. His one caveat was that he still needed to have time to serve as kitman for the Galway hurlers, as he has done for the past 15 years.
Both Tex and Louise were struck by how positive and empowering COPE Galway’s social enterprise Meals4Health is for people who use the service to help them live independently. Since starting with COPE Galway, Tex and Louise have delivered dinners to service users in Galway nearly every week. “There are people you’d always look forward to seeing every week, and if Louise wasn’t there one week, they’d be asking for her,” Tex said. “You also have to remember that you might be their only point of contact in the week.”
He added that he never knows what interesting and insightful stories and conversations might spring from the Friday visits. “It might just be a few minutes, but you get someone’s life story that way,” Tex said. Louise finds her work with COPE Galway to be uplifting and meaningful; it has afforded her a sense of structure and purpose since she had to take a hiatus from work. Louise said:
“You could be having a bad morning but then you go to someone’s door and have that connection with them. It changes your whole perspective. …I volunteer because I want to give my time back, but it’s just as much what they give to us.”
“You’ve got to keep busy, that’s what keeps you going and keeps your mind active,” her father added. Louise said she was blown away by the ultra-spotless kitchen, the quality of the food, and the presentation of the meals at the Meals4Health facility. If anything, she wishes more people knew about the affordable, healthy meals so they could avail of the service. “I firmly believe that if you do good, good does always come back to you in another way,” Louise said. “You never know when you might need this service, or someone close to you will.”
“It’s not every father and daughter who get to do this together,” they agreed. Spending time together has long been linked with satisfactory and deep family relationships between parents and children. Volunteering as a family is a fantastic way to spend time together while also serving the community. Family volunteering provides a space for participants to connect with family members outside of the home and the typical day-to-day routine.“When we started out, we said he would do the driving and I would do the running,” Louise said. “I think we’ve both ended up doing a bit of each!” When asked to describe their experience in one word, Louise didn’t miss a beat before answering “rewarding.” Tex wholeheartedly agreed.