Centre serves as a place of refuge for its local community
From the outside it may appear to be just another unremarkable building in an unremarkable part of town, but step inside the doors of the FAB Community and Family Resource Centre in Ferndale and you realise that this is a place which changes lives and which enhances the community it serves.
Partially funded by TUSLA, the centre has become an integral part of life in Coolcotts since opening in 1996, serving as both a place of refuge for those struggling with life and a one-stop shop for those taking the first tentative steps towards education, employment or beyond.
'It's a starting place for a lot of people who might not have been in education for a long time, so they come here,' says Board Member Brenda Byrne. 'They take part in a group and get the confidence to go on to education, into employment. It backs them up, we tell them where to go. We don't refuse anyone.'
Those groups include, but are not restricted to: a Womens' Group, a Parents' Group, a Senior Citizens' group, an Open Minds Group, an arts and crafts club, and a family days' club which takes annual outings throughout the country.
In addition to these long-running services, FAB also acts as a citizens information centre for those in need of assistance.
'People come in to get stuff photocopied, for help with their CVs, all general office stuff,' says Brenda. Youth Justice Worker Peter Culleton works on the SAFE project, a programme which assists young people involved in anti-social behaviour, drugs and who may have been excluded from school. And he believes that even the most cynical, reluctant individuals respond positively to those within the centre.
'It's a real welcoming, safe and sympathetic environnent for members of the community to come in, and they come in every day,' Peter says. 'And the majority of young lads that come through our programme are better for it. They still come in years after finishing with us.'
Constantly on the look out for ways to improve the lives of those within Coolcotts, staff at FAB have recently begun a Family Support Group for those who are experiencing difficulties within the family and have plans to introduce driver theory tests within the centre in the coming months.
Then there's the twice-weekly grinds classes in Irish and Maths, both of which are run voluntarily by local teachers, and the Speech and Language assessments which are carried out at the centre and lead to referrals to GPS, not to mention the constant flow of Community Education workers who receive vital training and work experience at the centre courtesy of the board members, and lastly, but not leastly, the childcare service which caters for low-income households.
The list is endless, yet for Kay Stafford, Childcare Coordinator at FAB, there's always more which can be done.
'We would like to buy the piece of land at the back of the building and extend the playground. There's only a very small play area at the moment for the children so they're restricted. There's great opportunities now to update outdoor areas now because there's so much focus on health and fitness.'
But, as with almost everything else, the issue of money, and funding, has thus far prevented them from purchasing this vacant site.
'We tried to buy it jointly with another community service provider. Then we looked at our finances and decided to leave it,' Brenda says matter-of-factly.