We spoke to the Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown Branch in Co. Dublin who told us about the history of the Branch and how active they are in their community.
The Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown Branch in Co. Dublin was formed some forty years ago when the late George McVittie persuaded the editor of the Irish Times to place a free advertisement in the paper inviting interested persons to a public meeting at the Tara Towers Hotel. Among the founding members at that gathering were Jenny Vella and Victor Boyhan. With hard work and the benefit of George McVittie’s expertise in public relations and administration, the Branch developed to become a model of efficiency and innovation. Over the decades, it has raised an estimated €1.3m for the charity.
Victor, now an Independent Senator, and Jenny served for many years as Branch Officers and remain committed supporters. Past treasurers Helen Murphy and the late and much loved Helen McLoughlin contributed greatly, while long-term activists, Georgina Bowers and Gillian Aplin remain fully engaged. Gillian’s husband, Tom, helped to steer the organisation at both local and national level.
From the outset, the Branch did things differently, establishing strong community linkages and stepping outside the traditional fundraising model. It dared to replicate the traditional parish fete, holding a summer fair in Knox Hall, Monkstown that offered everything from donated garden plants to homemade cakes, a delicatessen and Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind merchandise. One year it raised a total of €10,000.
Times and public appetites change. Counter boxes and collecting dogs are becoming less effective as a cashless society approaches. But innovation remains a key driver of the Branch. Maintaining positive relations with the management of local shopping centres opens their premises to fundraising events involving Guide Dogs, Puppy Raisers, Ambassador Dogs and the sale of merchandise. Christmas brings raffles and carol singing events.
Ukulele concerts on the East Pier in Dún Laoghaire; musical events in the Pavilion Theatre; golf classics at Woodbrook; a 5k road race at Rathfarnham Athletic Club; various secondary school talks and fundraising events, coffee mornings and pet blessings at Monkstown Parish Church and St Paul’s Glenageary.
These projects involve careful planning and follow-through. Monthly committee meetings assess the level of preparation for each event. They ensure the required set-up will be in place at shopping centres and elsewhere and that Guide and Ambassador Dog owners, Puppy Raisers and their charges will be in attendance. Our Facebook page has become increasingly important as we post about our activities and events to our growing number of followers.
Louise Daly is the current, meticulous chairman who ensures that events run smoothly. The Committee has ten members. Branch membership fluctuates around the forty mark. The Committee concentrates on community development in Dún Laoghaire. This was recognised by the county council last year when the Branch was chosen to participate in a community-based “Clann” photographic exhibition at the local Lexicon Gallery.
Caring for others does not stop at fundraising. Our Branch Annual general meetings (AGM) are not cold, dispassionate affairs. Sympathy is extended to the relatives and families of former members. The deaths of Guide, Assistance and Ambassador Dogs are dutifully recorded. Following tea and cakes, talks are given by Guide and Assistance Dog Owners about the impact they have on their lives and helpful advice is offered by experienced veterinary surgeons on looking after pets. It is a caring and welcoming occasion and offers an open hand to new members.
The success of our community-based Branch is down to the fellowship, friendship and on-going support of Committee Members, Branch Members, Volunteers, Clients and Dogs and the great support we receive from the local business community.
Thank you to everyone in the Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown Branch who are so dedicated to helping us change lives.