A huge congratulations is due to Clare Area Treasurer James Lafferty who was named Volunteer of the Year in the Safety and Emergency Services category at the Volunteer Ireland Awards on Friday 6 December. James was up against Padraig Allen from St John Ambulance Dublin and Frank Heidtke from Dingle Coast Guard, Kerry.
James was given the award for the thousands of hours he has given voluntarily to help others, his hugely successful fundraising efforts and for the leadership qualities he has displayed in delivering on projects.
James has shown creativity from the very moment he saw a gap in the community. When speaking to people after the bad storm in 2013, James found that some people were very isolated and had no way to get anywhere other than spending money on taxis. He found people had trouble getting transport to and from hospital appointments in particular, as quite often specialized transport was needed. James had a vision for a new community multi-purpose support vehicle, which is a minibus which can be transformed to an ambulance if needed, to bring people to their medical appointments (which are often in Dublin) or to help elderly people go on days out free of charge. The vehicle would be fundraised for through the people of Clare and in turn would be used for the people of Clare.
James saw his vision realized, raising €86,000 for the state-of the-art community vehicle which has been up and running since late 2016. James organizes drivers and takes all calls in relation to the vehicle and puts patients at ease by taking the worry away about getting to their appointment.
In 2019 so far, 137 runs have been completed. The vehicle is on the road approximately four times a week with many dedicated drivers, and James “steering” the whole concept, and doing much of the driving himself.
And this isn’t even James’ greatest feat.
James also spearheaded the purchase and development of a state-of-the-art Training Unit and Ambulance Centre which was opened in October 2018 while he has also taken charge of the fundraising which is required to pay back the mortgage on this property.
The new centre is 4,100 ft2 in size and serves as a training premises for the unit in Ennis. It also securely stores equipment, housing the group’s fleet of vehicles and hosts training courses for members.
James’ “Tour of Clare” fundraiser is helping to reduce the mortgage on the centre and pay for the minibus service. This fundraiser sees James head out to a different part of Clare every week, mostly Fridays and Saturdays, and set up a stall to raise money. He sits from 8 or 9am to 5 or 6pm outside shops selling lines in a raffle. He dedicates a lot of time in organizing these permits, ringing shops for permission, sitting collecting and then counting up and lodging what’s made.
One of those who nominated James for the award said; “James is a diamond in this organization. He is an all rounder and extremely approachable. He is always there to help while still keeping the community and fundraising alive. Without him, his dedication as a volunteer and the time he has committed, the community transport vehicle or the building we currently train in would not exist.”
Another nominee said that James was: “passion, initiative and creativity personified when it comes to fundraising. Whether it’s a quiz night, flag day or just the St Patrick’s Day parade, James will come up with ideas and put them into action to maximize return for what is truly a community project. His real strength is people, he loves to be out and about chatting with them or sharing a joke and a smile.”