SOS call out to the community to secure Banagher Playgroup’s future

The meeting about Banagher Playgroup on Tuesday.
The meeting about Banagher Playgroup on Tuesday.

A founding member of a playgroup in Feeny said closure of the facility would be “devastating for the community”.

The stark warning comes after trustees of Banagher Playgroup told a packed public meeting on Tuesday about the financial pressures they’re facing.

Trustees, staff and founding members Camille McDermott, Sarah Wallis, Mary O'Neill, Ashlyn Browne, Laura Murray, Roisin Lynch, Lucy McLaughlin, Rosaleen Biggs, Grace Kelly and Geraldine Feeney.

Trustees, staff and founding members Camille McDermott, Sarah Wallis, Mary O'Neill, Ashlyn Browne, Laura Murray, Roisin Lynch, Lucy McLaughlin, Rosaleen Biggs, Grace Kelly and Geraldine Feeney.

Trustee Sarah Wallis said they need to raise £12,500 to help plug the shortfall for this year, taking children up to June 2017, and to stay open from June 2017 to June 2018.

“It would safeguard us for the next year, and our numbers are looking better after that. There would still be a fundraising requirement, but it wouldn’t be as onerous as this year,” said Ms Wallis.

The playgroup has had a total net loss of £9,000 this year after Department of Education sustainability funding was cut, and a drop in numbers of five children.

“Unless we raise the £12,500, or a considerable amount of it, the playgroup won’t be able to stay open until June 2018. It will shut somewhere between September 2017 and June 2018,” said Ms Wallis.

Lucy McLaughlin, a founding member and former Playgroup trustee, said: “It really is crunch time for the group and I believe it would be devastating for the community if the playgroup closes. So, it would be great if the community could get behind it and help it get over this blip.”

Mrs McLaughlin explained it was a group of local women, including Kathleen Hasson and the late Moira O’Kane, who started the playgroup in 1981 in the parish hall.

“At that time we had a group of mums to make a committee and fund raise. We raised enough to buy a Portacabin and then the Housing Executive gave us a plot of land and we used all the local men to get it up and running,” said Mrs. McLaughlin. “As the years went on, we raised £20,000. We got grant money from the Lottery of £88,000 and we were able to get purpose-built premises and that opened in 1996. I would be heartbroken if it closes because we all put so much work into getting it started. I have two grandchildren at the playgroup and I want to keep it that way.”

Trustees are waiting to hear if they’ve been successful about several funding applications and, at the public meeting, Trustee Camille McDermott urged people to think of ways to help raise the £12,500.

Last year they held their first charity race, Feeny Fast & Furious which raised more than £3,000. They hope the race will raise even more this year, on April 9.

“Ultimately, the playgroup is your community playgroup. It’s crunch time for the playgroup,” said Ms McDermott.

Trustees say the bulk of their target would need to be raised by September 2017 “to guarantee we stay open”.

“We’ve always been so well supported over the years, and every year we raise about £4,000 from the local community,” said Ms Wallis. “Hopefully, we will get some of the fabulous Feeny support we are using to getting to.”

The playgroup is also appealing for new Trustees to come on board.

Anyone with fundraising ideas, or who wants to get involved as a Trustee, should contact the playgroup 028 777 81769 or email banagherplaygroup@gmail.com