New chairperson appointed at Athlone Family Resource Centre on O’Connell Street

Organisation now more “dynamic” and “stronger” - O’Rourke

The relocated Athlone Family Resource Centre (AFRC ) is now a more “dynamic and stronger” organisation, Cathaoirleach, Westmeath County Council, Cllr Aengus O’Rourke, stated this week.

Cllr O’Rourke, who has completed four years of service as chairman of the AFRC, spoke of the centre’s accessibility from its new location on O’Connell Street, noting the increase in services provided to users.

“Athlone’s Family Resource Centre has emerged a stronger, more dynamic organisation following its relocation to O’Connell Street. The centre is now more accessible and has never been as busy. Our services have grown beyond all expectations and we have increased our reach right across the town of Athlone and even into south Roscommon.

“We are funded by Tusla and supported in our work by many other agencies such as Westmeath County Council, the HSE, Westmeath Community Development and the Longford Westmeath Education Training Board.

“We offer a range of services in Athlone, supporting young people and families with the numerous challenges faced today. We work with qualified therapists who can help with a range of issues affecting adults, families and young people. We provide a very personal service, supporting families, children and individuals in many ways.

“The success of the Family Resource Centre is down to the resilience and commitment of our staff and the voluntary members of the board, who have always been very supportive and constructive. We have a wonderful team, it’s a small but very professional and dedicated team. The centre would be nothing without them. I have really enjoyed working with the staff and want to sincerely thank them for their work and for the support they gave me,” Cllr O’Rourke stated.

Reflecting upon his term as chairperson, Cllr O’Rourke, noted the fluctuating wealth of emotions he endured during his four year term at the AFRC helm.

“I very much enjoyed my role as chairman of the Athlone Family Resource Centre. Along with the staff, I experienced many ups and downs in the organisation during my four years. The lowest period came in November 2019 when I took the difficult decision to close the centre in Battery Heights following a spate of violent events and threats made to staff and to myself at the time.

“We had regularly witnessed drug dealing in the area, we had all been threatened on numerous occasions. The final straw came when a car was set on fire outside the centre, I had no option at that stage but to close the centre in the interest staff safety.

“The centre could no longer continue operating in that environment. As a result, at a meeting of the centre’s board, on my recommendation, the decision was taken by the board to suspend services and the close the centre on a temporary basis. We did so with a very heavy heart.

“However, despite that terrible set of circumstances in November 2019, we have now re-emerged and are looking to a positive future from our OConnell Street base,” Cllr O’Rourke added.

The outgoing chairman will be replaced in the role by Athlone native, Padraig Hegarty, who is looking forward to growing and enhancing the services provided at the centre.

“I am delighted and proud to take on the role as chairman of AFRC. I am excited about the future of the centre. I can see huge potential and am looking forward to working with the team to ensure we grow and develop the services further. I want to thank Aengus sincerely for his hard work in at times in very difficult circumstances. It has been a pleasure working with him on the board and I look forward to continuing that good work going forward,” Mr Hegarty stated.

AFRC Manager, Dolores Crerar, expressed her gratitude to Cllr O’Rourke, welcoming his decision to remain as a voluntary board member.

“I would like to thank Aengus for his careful and skilled stewardship of the AFRC as chairman for the past number of years. We are delighted that he has agreed to stay on the board as a voluntary member to help us to continue to grow and advance our objectives. On my behalf and that of all the staff I would sincerely like to thank Aengus for his commitment to the Athlone Family Resource Centre,” Ms Crerar concluded.


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