Back to All Stories
Next Story
Previous Story

You realise time is actually very precious

Meet Mary

Through years of volunteering with COPE Galway, Mary Cahalan has contributed to the catering service both ‘behind the scenes’ in the kitchen and in a client-facing delivery role.

Mary’s background running her own catering company stood her in good stead when she started out with COPE Galway. “My intention was that I would become a driver but because I’d spent all my life in a kitchen, I thought I might be more useful there,” said Mary. She ‘absolutely loved’ her work preparing meals in the kitchen, but eventually she had to stop due to back problems. Now she delivers meals to the eight houses on her route in Salthill.

Mary began looking for ways to volunteer with older people after her mother passed away and she wanted to use the day per week she used to spend with her mother to volunteer.

“The marvellous thing is all through this pandemic they’re all still at home and well,” Mary said of the older people to whom she delivers meals. “Of the eight people on my route, four or five of them would live alone and their resilience is remarkable, they’ve remained so upbeat,” Mary said, describing how challenging 2020 has been without visits from family, neighbours and grandchildren.

“It’s different now in that I have the interaction with the client, which really has been marvellous for me. It’s very fulfilling.”

Mary continued, “You meet family members and their appreciation for the service is absolutely huge. A lot of them say ‘you know, we don’t know what we would have done without the service.’

During the first lockdown in 2020, Mary briefly paused her volunteer work, heeding her family’s request to stay home. “I was miserable not going out and I was phoning to check in [on the clients] and all that. Then when things opened up again in the summer I went back and returned to my volunteer role, the service is running really well and I feel quite safe.”

“I believe the service is essential and I’d be a real advocate for [older] people being able to stay in their own homes at all costs. So this is one part of keeping people at home,” Mary said when asked what keeps her volunteering.

“I’m hugely impressed with COPE Galway anyway, I think they are a fantastic organisation and I am very committed to them,” Mary added, saying she was especially impressed with Geraldine Ryan, Executive Chef at COPE Galway’s Community Catering, who has ‘put everything into the past year’ ensuring conditions are safe and the quality of the food is as good as ever.

“Another thing they do really well is they mark every occasion. Valentine’s Day, there’ll be chocolate, Shrove Tuesday there’ll be pancakes, Easter they’ll put in little treats. They also do really helpful things throughout the pandemic, adding little bags of staples like teabags and porridge and sweets, lovely little touches like that.”

Joking that she’ll be ‘very prepared for my own old age,’ Mary said she’s learned a great amount from the COPE Galway clients, some of whom she’d consider great friends. “You realise time is actually very precious,” she said.

A standout day for Mary last year, she says, was when the Mayor of Galway accompanied COPE Galway on meal delivery runs and presented the clients with flowers. “They were thrilled, a couple of the women had put on the nice cardigan and had the lipstick on. They were full of chat with him and that’s when I realised they are really missing seeing people.”

That day, Mary sent one 96-year-old client’s son a photograph of his mother with the mayor. The client’s son said the photograph of his mother smiling and looking well made his day. Before the pandemic, Mary said she would schedule her deliveries so if she thought a client could do with some extra support, they would be her last stop and she could spend ten or fifteen minutes visiting with them and chatting.

“I really enjoy the people I talk to and meet. The sadness this past year for me has been not being able to come into the houses and visit with them. I will keep doing this as long as I’m able.”

Share