Some of those who arrive call in for tea in the front room, while others head to rooms where classes ranging from découpage to baby massage to two-hand dancing to mindfulness are taking place.
There’s a lot involved in keeping the popular Centre functioning smoothly, and a group of workers who have come to Cara House through the Tús Scheme run by Donegal Local Development Company are playing a key role in making it all happen.
“The Tús Scheme has been a Godsend to us,” said Co-ordinator Susan McCauley of Cara House, which is one of 14 sponsor groups in Letterkenny that employ Tús workers through DLDC. “We’ve had such good people on it who’ve worked really hard for us. We never found anybody who didn’t work out for us, and they all benefitted from being here because they know the work that they do is valued. We wouldn’t function without their help.”
Tasks that Tús Scheme participants help out with at Cara House include greeting visitors to the Drop-in Room, performing maintenance duties, providing dinners and general assistance to older members of the local community, working in the kitchen, and more.
As the head of a sponsor group Susan has a relationship not just with Tús workers, but also with Tús supervisors — the DLDC employees who have primary responsibility for managing the workers. “The Tús supervisors have given us great support,” Susan said. “They have been so easy to work with…if we have any problem at all they’re on the ball straightaway to help us deal with it.”
The current Tús supervisor for Cara House, Sharon Docherty, agreed. “It would be a very good working relationship,” she said. “There’s great honesty between us, and I think each of us finds it easy to approach the other.”
The first job I’ve ever loved
Sharon, who supervises 20 Tús workers at different sponsor groups in the Letterkenny area, has a unique perspective on her job due to the fact that she herself started at DLDC as a Tús Scheme worker.
“I loved it…the people and the buzz,” she said of the administrative position that she held in the DLDC office on the scheme. “It helped boost my confidence after being out of work for a while. I also really enjoyed the routine of being at work, and the fact that weekends were weekends again — they weren’t just another day of the week.”
Tús Supervisor Sharon Docherty with Tús Worker Adrian Doherty at Cara House
When an opening for a Tús supervisor position arose at DLDC, Sharon decided to apply for it and was delighted when she got it.
“I can honestly say I’ve worked in various positions, but I’ve never loved a job before,” she said. “I get a great kick out of helping people and I have a lot of empathy with the workers. I respect the services that they provide to the community, and I make it a priority to find people who are suitable to work with the different sponsor groups.”
It’s like Cheers here!
The heart of Cara House is undoubtedly the Drop-in Room at the front of the house where people can call in for a cup of tea and a chat every Monday to Saturday from 9.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m.
On this Wednesday morning visitors are seated at all of the small tables in the room as Tús Worker Michael Leddy welcomes newcomers and offers them tea.
Working in the Drop-in Room, Michael said, “is like Cheers…everybody knows your name! You get a lot of people who come in regularly, so you get to know people’s rhythms. That said, no two days are the same. If Thursday is mad busy, then Friday will be dead. You might hear a really sad story on Monday, but someone might have a great story on Tuesday. It’s never boring…it’s always exciting.
Tús Supervisor Sharon Docherty and Tús Worker Michael Leddy standing in front of the well-known Red Door at Cara House
“I really enjoy the people who drop in and the craic…there is good craic,” Michael added. “I also enjoy the camaraderie with other people on the scheme.”
Michael, who is currently setting up his own company, said the hours that he is employed on the Tús Scheme have worked well for him. “It’s been very good for someone like me who’s getting a business up and running,” he said. “You can come home in the afternoon and work until 8 o’clock at night.”
He’s my best helper yet
Meanwhile, out and about in Letterkenny Tús Worker Adrian Doherty is helping 76-year-old Jim O’Brien with some errands.
“He’s the best helper I’ve had yet,” Jim said of Adrian as the two stood beside the Cara House van where it was parked on Main Street. “I’ve had people helping me out for years. Some of them would fail to turn up or wouldn’t want to take me places, but Adrian takes me everywhere I want to go…shops, the bank, the barber, the doctor, the hospital. He’s very helpful.”
Jim O’Brien and Tús Worker Adrian Doherty
For his part Adrian said he has enjoyed being of assistance to Jim, as well as performing other duties that he has at Cara House, including cleaning, providing refreshments for dancing classes, and collecting 30 youngsters from three local schools who participate in an Afterschools Programme at the Centre.
“I’ve been used to working on building sites which is physically very tough, so this is a big difference for me,” he said. “I do like it here…everybody who comes in, they’re all genuine enough. There’s a lot of people who would be lost without the services that Cara House provides. Being here has opened me up to stuff. This is a good place.”