Limerick community centre staff look ahead after winning Enterprise Town award

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Magic moment: Tait House staff celebrate their win in the Bank of Ireland Enterprise Town awards

Magic moment: Tait House staff celebrate their win in the Bank of Ireland Enterprise Town awards

THE sterling work done by the staff of a southside community enterprise centre in Limerick have been recognised with a major award.

Tait House Community Enterprise Centre, based at the edge of Southill, has won the Bank of Ireland National Enterprise Town award for the town’s initiative, which recognises enterprising set-ups.

Staff from the centre won the prize at a gala ceremony at the Lyrath House Hotel in Kilkenny, after teaming up for their application – entitled ‘southside regeneration’ with the Limerick Enterprise Office, Limerick City and County Council and the Limerick Enterprise Development Partnership.

The only company to emerge victorious from Limerick, they received their prize before a crowd of 400 people.

Based on Collins Avenue and headed by chief executive Tracey Lynch, Tait House is a not-for-profit social enterprise with 160 staff.

A huge number of community services are offered at the facility, including a befriending service based on HSE referrals, retrofitting of houses to make them warmer, community programmes and horticulture courses, while the Money Advice and Budgeting Services is based there alongside other adult educational facilities.

A key part of the development of the centre is the progression of social enterprises, with 20 in place at the moment.

As Bill Kelly, who leads the social enterprise side of the centre says, it’s hoped these companies will “be able to wash their own face financially”.

All surplus finance goes into Tait House’s projects which address social issues, including a community creche and after-school club, a new coffee shop, a hairdresser and beauty salon, and interestingly, a referral-based counselling service.

“In so far as we as a county have an interest in developing Limerick as a go-to area in terms of social enterprise development, this award is recognition we are on the right track,” Mr Kelly says.

Asked what the win meant to them, Ms Lynch said: “It’s acknowledge​ment of the hard work and the volunteering as well. The guys may be employed by us, but most of them are out volunteering when they are not working.”

And what did she feel made the centre impress the judges so much?

“I think it’s because what we do is real, it’s meaningful, it has impact. We are able to demonstrate the transition. Some people will not have entered into the labour force at any time. The process through gaining some confidence to lift your shoulders and head to getting onto education, clocking in and out, getting some work experience and interacting with people,” Ms Lynch explained.

Tait House was put forward by Limerick Council, and gave a short presentation to three high-profile judges, who visited the city’s southside last summer.

Those judges included John Fitzgerald, the former Dublin city manager who authored the report which led to the setting up of the regeneration agencies, and Tom Dowling of Pride of Place.

Ms Lynch said: “We got to tell them about the different things we do across the community services and the social enterprise programmes, and that symbiotic relationship between both.”

As for the future, there are huge plans for Tait House, including a yet-to-be disclosed “landmark project” for the city, an urban farm, and even a snail farm!

The farm will, Mr Kelly says, become the “Kerry Gold of Irish escargot” (This is the French word for snails).

“Alongside this, we are looking at energy installation in all our projects and doing retrofitting of homes and other innovative things like air to water systems – now we are moving from energy installation to energy generation,” Ms Lynch adds.

The future looks very bright for Tait House – don’t bet against them winning more awards in the not too distant future!