Southill Hub pictured above
10 questions with the Southill Hub
By I Love Limerick Correspondent Peter Cooney
Southill Hub is a non-profit Community Centre that serves the Southill community.
The Hub (originally called the Southill Area Centre) opened its doors in 2008 and has been a key service to the community since. In 2018, they celebrated their 10th birthday and relaunched as the Southill Hub.
The Hub runs a Youth Work Programme, a Community Café, a Community Garden, and Sports Hall. They also have meeting rooms and a computer room available to community groups and community organisations.
Southill Hub aims to “Support Southill to be a great place to grow up and grow old”
Since March they have been doing their utmost to continue running a community centre under the shadow and challenges of COVID-19, which has affected communities all across Limerick and Ireland.
Karen O’ Donell Connor of the Southhill Hub tells ilovelimerick how they have coped with the challenges and obstacles COVID-19 has to offer and how they overcame them:
What has been the most challenging aspect of COVID-19 for the Southill Hub?
It has been a big challenge to run a community centre when we aren’t allowed to have people coming together! We love it when the Centre is busy and buzzing with people coming and going so it has been hard not having that happening.
What was the first thing the Southill Hub thought about when you had to close?
When we had to close our doors to the public on March 12, 2020, the very first thing that we did the next day was to have a staff meeting to look at how we could continue to support the community while we were closed. All of the staff were keen to find ways to do this and make sure that the community did not feel that we just “shut up shop” and left in a time of crisis.
What plan did you come up with?
We made contact with the school and worked with them to provide support to families; we also linked in with other service providers in the community such as Tusla and Simon to support their service delivery in the community. Our Youth Workers did a job of work in getting youthwork set up online very quickly and worked the phones to keep in contact with the young people and their parents.
What did you try to do differently?
Early on, we made the decision that our Facebook content would not just be sharing information, etc. from other sources. Lots of other organisations were doing that and we felt information sharing was well covered. We worked on the loose concept of a virtual Community Centre on Facebook and tried to provide entertainment and support from behind our closed doors. We worked very hard on recording and designing content that featured our staff, people that the community knew from coming into the Centre.
Our café staff shared their recipes and did step-by-step videos, our Community Gardener shared growing lessons, our Youth Workers did crafting and games. Staff members shared their singing talents, we read stories and we even had funny videos where some of our front-of-house team were pranking each other! People seemed to enjoy those the most!
How did the Centre change from level to level?
All the way through the first lockdown, we were constantly planning how we could safely reopen when the time came. When the government roadmap came out, we sat down and mapped where we could start providing services in person along the way. We had young people back in the building from June onwards and because of careful planning; we were able to provide 6 weeks of summer camps and trips throughout the summer. We were also able to open the café for takeaway and then a sit-in service. We were delighted that things like the Community Bingo Group were back up and running, even though it only ran for a few weeks before we had to move levels again, unfortunately.
How was Christmas at the Southill Hub?
Well, not as festive as we usually like it to be! However, the easing of some restrictions in December allowed us to do some fun things with the community. We organised a Christmas Family Photo day so that people could get their pics with their family in their Christmas jumpers!
Youth work had continued throughout the autumn and winter and young people had some nice Christmas treats and (socially distanced!) hangouts with their groups to celebrate Christmas.
The café was open with seating for two weeks and it was so lovely to see the community back in and meet everyone again! We also had a bit of fun on our Facebook page with our Naughty Elf on the Shelf getting up to no good around the Centre!
What is the Southill Hub up to now under the current restrictions?
It is very hard for everyone as it feels like we were back to square one in some ways. However, all the staff dug deep again and we are back working with the schools and service providers to support community members. You will see our bus out and about doing deliveries!
Youth Workers have been delivering fun packs to club members every week for the last two months and are now back running one to one support to young people in person.
Our café has remained open for takeaway so drop in for a breakfast roll if you are passing!
How do you think 2021 will look at the Southill Hub?
It is very hard to predict anything about the future at the moment. However, we will keep working away under the guidelines and making sure that we are delivering services to the best of our ability and in a way that is safe for our centre users. We hope that the second half of 2021 will allow us to have more people back through the doors and we hope to be able to plan events that support the community to come together. We also see a lot of our programmes and events going outdoors. Fingers crossed the weather plays ball!
What have you all missed the most in the last 12 months?
All of us here at the Southill Hub are missing the people of Southill in and around the Centre every day. We enjoy our jobs best when we are busy and people are enjoying themselves in their community centre! We miss Bingo, the café chat, the family fun days, gardening classes and the noise of groups of young people in the building-the list goes on and on!. We have been connected with the community all the way through but it will be great to throw the doors wide open and have a big community celebration when the time comes!
What will be the first thing the Southill Hub will do when things are back to “normal”?
We worked with the Southill Bingo Committee last year to run a “Hoolie in the Hub” with live music and loads of dancing and craic. When the time is right, we are very much looking forward to a packed and noisy dance hall again here in the building!
For more info on Southill Hub go HERE
For more stories on Southill go HERE