Hailing from Boston, Mayo and Sligo, these three COPE Galway volunteers come together each Thursday to help run the Mervue Lunch Club at the local GAA hall.
Serving lunch is an important part of Phil, Kathleen, and Dave’s role, but it’s far from their only duty over the course of an afternoon. “Once we come in, we’re busy right until the moment we leave,” Phil said, describing everything it takes to ensure the lunch club runs smoothly.
First, they serve lunch – no small task when the hall is full with up to 30 people. Not only do lunch clubs build community, they also provide nutritious balanced meals, which are prepared and delivered by COPE Galway’s Community Catering kitchen.
Afterwards, Phil, Kathleen, and Dave clear the plates and come around with tea and coffee. One client was turning 80 on the day of this visit, so a card was passed around and a cake was served to a chorus of “Happy Birthday”. “It’s really my 18th!” she joked as slices of cake were handed out.
After the washing up, it was time for the bingo and Dave played the MC role well, calling the numbers in a booming voice. “The bingo is taking off greatly, everyone loves it,” Kathleen said. Other times, the after-lunch entertainment is a table quiz or a performance by volunteer musicians. As Phil put it, “The more activities the better.”
The busy volunteers wear many hats — sometimes even Santa hats. “I’ve been Father Christmas two years in a row,” Dave said.
Phil, Kathleen, and Dave sing the praises of their fellow volunteers, the atmosphere at the lunch club, and the apple tart that is sometimes served for dessert. “There’s a great camaraderie here. There’s a happy atmosphere,” Phil said.
Kathleen, who has volunteered with the club for more than two years, also assists with the minibus, which collects clients from the surrounding area. “We bring the clients in and take them home. If we pick up six people, that’s six people that wouldn’t get here any other way.”
Dave underscored the vital role the lunch club plays in ensuring people have somewhere to socialise. “You look at one of our guests, who within the last month had a serious medical condition,” Dave said. “He only missed two Thursdays and he’s back already.”
Phil said she wanted to start volunteering when she retired and chose COPE Galway because she knew of the direct impact the organisation has on the local community. For Kathleen and Dave, volunteering was a valuable way to become part of the community when they moved to Galway: for Kathleen after returning from the UK, for Dave after moving from the US.
All three volunteer at the nearby Sonas Day Centre and help with bucket collections around Christmas time. Dave also volunteers at the COPE Galway charity shop on St Augustine Street.
For all three volunteers, their work has been a valuable way to maintain a routine after retirement.
“If you wake up in the morning and there’s something bothering you, once you come here you forget all about that,” Kathleen said. “When you’re helping people.”