by Alan Nolan, Social Care Leader, St Hilda’s Services, Athlone


The Radisson Hotel in the centre of Athlone was the venue for St Hilda’s Services 40th year celebrations. The location was symbolically appropriate because St Hilda’s has also placed itself in the center of the community during its 40-year history. The capacity crowd was made up of service users, their families and friends, as well as past and present employees of St Hilda’s. Local head librarian, Gearóid O’Brien served as master of ceremonies for the event (both his parents were founding members of St Hilda’s Services). The Army Band and St Mary’s Folk Group provided music for the very enjoyable ceremony, which was conducted by representatives from each of the town’s religious faiths.

John Gately, General Manager of St Hilda’s Services, asked for everyone to take some time ‘to smell the roses’ and to reflect on how far the services had come since its inception in 1964. The following timeline traces the development of St Hilda’s Services:

1964: St Hilda’s Services founded

1966: Initial Care Services

1967: First School comprising of one class

1974: National School and Care Unit

1982: Adult Training Centre

1983: Adult High Support Day Service

1989: Seven-day Community Home

1991: Respite, In-Home and Family Support Service

1992: Resource Centre

1994: Pre-School

1995: Intensive Support Community Home Service

1997: Respite Service; Child High Support Day Service; Intensive Support Community Home

1999: Five-day Community Home

2000: Five-day Community Home

2001: Seven-day Community Home; Work Therapy Unit (Horticultural)

2002: Supported Living Programme

2004: Pilot of the National Standards in Residential Services. (St Hilda’s has enthusiastically embarked on person-centred planning in the service.

St Hilda’s service users were fully involved in the day’s events; singing in the choir, doing the readings and participating in a harvest procession and a presentation. A very successful art exhibition was held, showing service users’ art work which had been commissioned for the 40th celebrations. A highlight of the day was the surprise arrival of You’re a star finalist Simon Casey, who officially opened the art exhibition, signed autographs and mingled with his fans.

Mary Meares, Chairperson of St Hilda’s Services, congratulated the organising committee on their work and referred to the founding members of the organization who, with foresight and pioneering spirit, had laid the solid foundations of the service we have today. Mr Gately echoed the same sentiment, stating that the founding members ‘quite simply created person-centred planning forty years ago. They created services to address individual needs on an individual basis with appropriate interventions as requested by the individual and by their families.’ To mark the service’s anniversary, each founding members, or a surviving family member, was presented with an Athlone Crystal Glass Globe with St Hilda’s Services logo.

Mr Gately looked to the future, saying ‘I hope the torch bearers of today and the future hold the same ethos and have the same capacity to hear clearly what is said and objectively see the precise pathways of the future for each and every person in our services.’


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