KILKENNY hurler Tommy Walsh took time out of his busy schedule recently to visit the residents of Prague House in Freshford to launch a monster raffle.
Work amounting to has been done in recent times at the home to ensure that standards demanded by health watchdog HIQA are met. “We had to install 80 fire doors and curtains that are fire resistant. Otherwise we could have been closed down. We started work in April and so far we have spent around €160,000,” said Sister Peggy.
Sr Patricia Dee, who founded the house which is home to 24 residents from the parishes of Freshford, Lisdowney and Tullaroan explained how it all started. “In 1969 Bishop Birch asked all the religious orders to give one or two sisters to care for the elderly and the housebound. An Irish sister came over from England and worked here in Freshford for 12 months. In 1970 I was asked to come to Freshford to do social work. I did a Meals on Wheels and laundry service and I also looked after the elderly in their own homes. A couple asked me would I build a place so that they wouldn’t have to go to the county home. I asked Bishop Birch and he said I could go ahead but I had no funding.
“I started fundraising and after I raised a certain amount I went back to him. The next morning he brought me here. At the time it was a derelict building which had originally been an old school building. I did everything to raise funds. We sold tickets at ploughing matches and held whist drives. The bishop handed over the school for the elderly and Eddie Moran came on board along with a huge team of volunteers. There was no money to pay anyone and they managed to transform the building from a one-storey building to a two storey one . Then we added a wing with a further six rooms so when we started we had 12 rooms. All the work was done for free and the cost of the project was £28,000. We got £10,000 for the local government and £10,000 from the health board and we went around the whole country selling tickets and selling soup and sandwiches out of the back of a horsebox at ploughing matches. They were simple methods but they managed to raise the money and we opened in April 1974 without any debt,” she said. Sr Dee left in 1986 and went to England and returned to Prague House nine years ago where she is now enjoying her retirement. “I have a great relationship with all the people in Freshford. It is a wonderful place,” she added.
Margaret Kennedy, who is on the Board of Management said how the organisation is run. “Prague House is a welfare home. It is a unique concept as people pay what they can. We mainly cater for the three local parishes but anyone is welcome if we have room. There is also a day care centre and we have a Meals on Wheels service that provides hot dinners for 30 people every day. We were the first house of this kind in Ireland. When we were told that we were to come under the remit of HIQA we faced a big problem and to install the fire doors alone cost us €140,000. There is a two-year plan in place to raise a further €200,000. There has been a problem with fundraising as people think we got government funding that was promised to us but we haven’t actually got it,” she said.
The fundraising raffle consists of ten draws for €1,000 between now and Christmas. Tickets are available from Prague House in Freshford. Tommy Walsh said he was delighted to be involved in the campaign and urged people to support the raffle. “I have always heard great stories about Prague House and I really appreciate the good work that they do here. It is vital for the community and I would be asking people to give what they can and support the draw as it is a great causes. It gives us all peace of mind going forward for us and our families that Prague House is here for the community,” he added.