FLOOR to ceiling glass walls, a huge common room for bingo, dancing and courting, a restaurant with 60 covers in the day, rooms for hire by local services; gardens, a creche and playground on site: the Desmond Complex means business.
Manager Aileen Harnett took us through this happy campus on a sun-drenched day on which the centre pulsed with life.
Built in response to a feasibility study in 1990s that showed a lack of support services for older people, since 1996, it is community led and owned. Limerick Citizens Information Services run morning clinics here Tuesday to Friday; Pobal and HSE are other stakeholders. Naturally, the Complex is a not for profit company.
“With the aid of Local Link we share the cost of transport for older people and disabled people from the wider West Limerick area.” Access and affordability are everything. Just €10 secures entry to all entertainment for the over 55s, pastoral services with Sisters Rena and Marie (Poor Servants of the Mother of God), sociability and a three-course meal, freshly cooked.
“We have our day centre every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We have a lovely building and rent out rooms to local services. Citizens Information Services is here four mornings a week, from 10.30am into 2pm.
“There is a Mother and Toddler group going on upstairs as I speak and we have loads of different activities going on – right now a coffee morning that is an annual fundraiser for Milford Hospice. It has raised €1,000′.
The Desmond Community Creche is part of the one company and “very well supported. It is full and caters to all the schemes with a capacity for 110 children.”
Across the yard stands the Brothers of Charity Early Intervention building. The Brothers rent the Hawthorne Suite five days in the principal building also to meet the needs of the community they foster.
Business minded, the Desmond Complex hires space to private enterprise as well such as CareBright, slimming groups, Safe Pass training and even birthday parties on Sunday (self catered).
“In the dining room we fit 80 seated and on a weekly basis, we comfortably provide for at least 160 meals.” Bernie Forrestal heads up the kitchen team and the food aromas circulating are delicious.
Professional musicians set up in the common room with their own PA “and it is a very lively spot.” Aileen laughs. “We have joke tellers, we have singers, poetry speakers, a great varied group of people to entertain and have fun – and there is great dancing.” Folks, check out their Sloshy [line dancing].
Late blooming romance? “Yes, it has been known to happen.” Again, that big bright smile from someone in love with their own lucky, lively job and diamond life at the Desmond Complex.