Journal’s Joe is local champ

(0308SL015) Photo: Stephen Latimer
(0308SL015) Photo: Stephen Latimer

‘Derry Journal’ photograhper Joe Boland is a man at the very heart of his community.

His dedication to groups such as Scouting Ireland and various other community activities in the Lifford-St-Johnston area and beyond has now earned him the recognition he deserves in the form of a nomination for the all-Ireland title of Calor Community Champion 2012.

Following several weeks of intense nominating, Joe has been shortlisted as the Donegal nominee for the inaugural Calor Community Champion initiative.

In particular, the Donegal Community Champion tag is the result of Joe’s tireless endeavours in Scouting Ireland over the last 20 years.

Joe said he was delighted with the nomination as it “raises the profile of the scouts”. “I don’t know who nominated and voted for me but I have no doubt it was my friends and colleagues in the scouts. I’m humbled by the nomination, especially having heard about some of the other nominees who do such brilliant work in their own organisations.”

He added: “It feels very strange as you don’t expect to get recognised publicly for something you just love doing and always have loved doing. This is what I do day in day out when I’m not at work, it’s my life.”

In the past Joe has taken up roles on County, Provincial and National committees but what he loves most is organising activities for scouts, including camps and challenge days.

Joe is not only a regular scout leader but also an avid Scout leader trainer and has trained hundreds and possibly thousands of adult volunteers over many years, including at least 10 volunteer training courses this year alone.

The promotion of cross community and cross border activities are close to Joe’s heart. “It is important for communities to overcome barriers, “ he said.

His key roles in the organisation of events such as the Scouting Ireland Jamboree in 2008, which involved 6,500 people from all walks of life gathering at Punchestown, and this year’s Camp Carnival at Baronscourt, which had 1,500 young people and leaders attending, are examples of his dedication to bringing people from different backgrounds together.

But his work in the scouts is not the extent of Joe’s community participation. He is also heavily involved in DCSM (Drumatoland, Castledooey, Sheskin, Momeen) community group - of which he was a founder member - and the Riverine Project Community Forum which facilitates local community organisations in having a say over development of the Mourne riverfront in Strabane-Lifford.

The winner of the Calor Community Champion 2012 award will receive a prize of 1,500 euro and a bursary of 7,500 euro to give to a nominated charity or local organisation. Now Joe wants the public’s help to win the title - which will be announced on September 4 - but it is by no means for selfish reasons.

“I hope people vote for me because it will raise much needed money for the 19th Donegal Scouts (Lifford) to pay for new camping and cooking equipment as well as raising the profile of the scouts. If I do get the votes, from the 1,500 euro prize money I will give 500 euro each to the Donegal Donkey Charity and the Rainbow Rehoming Centre in Derry - two charities very close to my heart,” he said.

Voting is now open to each and every member of the public through the Calor Facebook page at Members of the public will have until August 20 to vote with the top four local champions and two wildcards going into the final phase.

Speaking at the shortlist announcement, Hector Ó hEochagáin, TV personality and head of the judging panel said: “This initiative has been a platform to shed light on these truly deserving people, like Joe Boland here in Donegal. We now have a gallery of what can only be described as real life community heroes. Now it is time to see what each county is truly made of and who the best supporters are, so visit the Gallery of Nominees and get voting today.”

Jennifer Fagan, marketing executive, Calor Gas said: “These people help to raise aspirations and create a feel-good factor within local communities. Choosing the local champions has been a hard task, without them it is clear our communities would be much poorer places.

The winner will be chosen by the judging panel including Hector Ó hEochagáin, GAA and sports broadcaster, Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh and Jennifer Fagan from Calor.