Posted 04:17PM on Wednesday 19 July 2017
Our Chief Executive, Agnes Lunny, reflects on the recent receptions we organised with local councils across Northern Ireland as part of our 21st birthday celebrations.
It never ceases to humble and inspire me when I meet the wonderful staff and volunteers of Positive Futures and hear their stories and the stories of the people we support, so it’s been a particular pleasure to attend the Mayoral Receptions that we have enjoyed over the last 4 months. These events were a great opportunity to celebrate our 21st anniversary with our staff, volunteers and people we support and also to help spread awareness of what we do with our council hosts and, on occasion, external guests as well.
We kicked off our first celebration in Lisburn and Castlereagh Council on 16 February at the Island Centre in Lisburn. The Mayor, Councillor Brian Bloomfield (MBE), took great pleasure in giving everyone a guided tour of the council chamber, including involving two of the people we support in a demonstration of how the Mayor can silence any councillor’s microphone. He showed us the Mayor’s Parlour, recounting the rich history of the City Of Lisburn.
Then, on 23 February, we celebrated with our Newry Services, hosted by Council Chairperson Gillian Fitzpatrick. With a background in mental health nursing, Gillian was very interested to hear Majella Toner’s story and how Positive Futures had made such an impact in her life, but she might have become worried for her job a bit later on when Noel Curran, one of the people we support in Newry, relieved her of her chain to get his photograph taken wearing it!
The Deputy Chair of Mid Ulster Council, Councillor Sharon McAleer, welcomed us at the Burnavon Arts Centre in Cookstown for our celebration with our Magherafelt and Cookstown Services on 6 April and the occasion had a real party–like atmosphere, especially when we cut the superb anniversary cake that had been made by Margaret O’Leary.
On 27 April, I didn’t have to travel far as Mayor of Ards and North Down Borough Council, Alderman Deborah Girvan, hosted our Bangor Family Support Service, East Coast and Ards Peninsula Supported Living Services at Bangor Town Hall in the beautiful setting of the wood panelled council chamber. At all of the events, we recognised the fantastic contribution of our volunteer team by presenting a number of awards and certificates. In Bangor, we presented one of the Service “Volunteer of the Year” awards to Dot Wyness from Bangor Family Support Service. We were also delighted to have an anniversary cake made and decorated by Jackie Robins, one of the people we support, who also spoke on the evening.
On 4 May, we celebrated with our Sperrin and Lakeland Supported Living Services, hosted by Deputy Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Bert Wilson, who spoke about our work with great passion. Mr and Mrs O’Boyle and Briege Corrigan reaffirmed for us why we should all be proud of what we do. Once again, I had the honour of presenting a “Volunteer of the Year” award to Donna Gibson as well as a number of other awards during the evening.
We held our final celebration event in Belfast on 31 May. This was the only event which was not hosted by a council (we had already benefitted from our year as one of the Lord Mayor’s chosen charities and had used Belfast City Hall for the Max Mara Fashion Show in March). Instead, Groundwork NI kindly offered us the use of their conference facilities to celebrate with our Belfast services. We presented the remainder of our “Volunteer of the Year” awards with the night culminating in our President, Alan Kendall, presenting the President’s Award for Volunteering to Ruth Ferguson (pictured).
By the end of these six events, we had celebrated with over 300 staff, volunteers, people we support, family members and other guests. The commitment and dedication of our staff and volunteers, the real difference we are making to people every day across Northern Ireland and our positive reputation with partners were so evident throughout all of these events and it makes me so proud to be the Chief Executive of this fabulous organisation.