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– £18 million social finance provided to Northern Ireland voluntary sector since 2016 –

Loughgiel Shamrocks GAC, based outside Ballymoney, is celebrating a win of a different kind. The club is set to repay a £250,000 loan to social finance providers, Community Finance Ireland in full after just five years, following investment in new club facilities including a sand pitch and ball wall. 

With no penalty incurred for early repayment, Loughgiel Shamrocks hit fundraising targets early using a patron scheme fundraising strategy, where members and friends of the club commit to supporting loan repayments.

Sean McNaughton, former Treasurer of Loughgiel Shamrocks GAC, said:

“Our Development Committee identified a need for better facilities due to increased participation in sports in the area.  After purchasing land, we needed financial support to construct a sand pitch with floodlights and fencing and an enclosed, floodlit ball wall with a 3G surface.  We knew that Community Finance Ireland was familiar with the GAA and the needs of local clubs, and we very much appreciated their fast decision making, advice and of course flexibility, allowing us to repay our loan early without penalty.”

The facilities at Loughgiel GAC are used by local club teams, Antrim County Hurling and Camogie teams and primary and post primary schools in the area. 

Loughgiel Shamrocks GAA Community Finance Ireland
Peter Smyth visits Loughgiel grounds and hears from its former Treasurer Sean McNaughton and local players benefitting from the new facilities.

Since 2016, Community Finance Ireland has supported 166 sports clubs, social enterprises and organisations from across the community and voluntary sector in Northern Ireland, with a total of £18.1 million in social finance loans.

Peter Smyth, Client Manager at Community Finance Ireland added:

“When we provide a loan to a GAA club, often towards a capital project like new facilities, it helps build momentum and shows that the club committee is delivering on the club development plan and is therefore worth supporting.

In the case of Loughgiel GAC, the improved facilities led to an increased sporting success by the club and greater usage by local schools and groups. The collective efforts of the committee, club members and supporters of Loughgiel to repay this finance in just five years, is an example of people power at its very best.”

Community Finance Ireland has provided £18million in social finance to Northern Ireland’s voluntary sector since 2016 and we’re proud £5.6m of that has gone to sporting organisations like Loughiel.

If you and your community facility need advice, get in touch today or follow us on Twitter.  

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Solving problems and creating opportunities for groups in North Leinster and South Ulster.

Bringing over 40 years of experience in financial lending, Colm Prendergast has been appointed as the new Client Relationship Executive in North Leinster and South Ulster for Community Finance Ireland, the fastest-growing social finance provider in Ireland and the UK.

Colm Prendergast joins an all-island team, as the appetite for social finance solutions in the community and voluntary sector continues to grow.

A native of Kilcock Kildare, now living in Blackrock, County Louth, Mr Prendergast will support organisations across the North Leinster and South Ulster regions, working with voluntary-led groups and social enterprises to make social change possible in their local communities. 

Community Finance Ireland’s newly appointed Client Relationship Executive in North Leinster and South Ulster, Colm Prendergast.

Community Finance Ireland offers tailored financial supports for sports clubs, community projects, faith-based groups, and social enterprises. Between 2016 and 2022, the organisation funded 127 projects to the value of €16.6 million across the Leinster region.

Speaking on his appointment, Mr Prendergast reflected on his how his previous role with the Credit Union Group has put him in good stead for this new venture:

“There’s something of a shared mission between credit unions and Community Finance Ireland- we’re here to help solve problems and create opportunities and every repayment is reinvested.“While the credit union supports individuals, Community Finance Ireland provides tailored supports for community organisations who run them. We don’t ask for personal guarantees, we don’t charge arrangement fees on loans and we’re flexible in a way that traditional high-street lending is not. If a client can repay their loan early, we won’t penalise them for that. I’m delighted to be joining the Community Finance Ireland team and I’m looking forward to hearing all the big ideas which people in have to make social change in their local community. Where I live in Louth with my family, I see how the local sports clubs, arts organisations and social enterprises are at the heart of our local community – all of them led by people power. I’m looking forward to working with new clients to solve problems and create opportunities for social impact.”

Welcoming the appointment Barry Symes, Head of Community Finance (ROI) said:

“Colm brings a wealth of financial expertise to our clients and potential clients across this region. We’re delighted to welcome him on board and I’ve no doubt he’ll be a huge support for community and voluntary organisations within the Cavan, Dublin, Louth, Monaghan and Westmeath regions”

Do you have a project in mind? If you are based in counties Dublin, Meath, Westmeath, Longford, Monaghan or Cavan get in touch with Colm today. He is ready to hear from you.

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– Community Finance Ireland delivers €4.87 million in support of Dublin communities since 2016 –

Fifty years since the people of Glenasmole took it upon themselves to build a community hub in the local area, Glenasmole Community Association (GCA) is preparing to reopen the doors of the newly renovated community centre. The community-owned building has undergone major refurbishment over the past two years with the support of Community Finance Ireland (CFI).

GCA board member and project manager, John Lee said the newly expanded community space will serve generations to come:

“Our ambition with this refurbishment project was to create a space which will serve young and old and everyone in between from our local area. We’re a small community here and this centre has been at the heart of it for decades but the building itself just hasn’t been fit for purpose. The original hall is now extended to include a kitchen space and meeting rooms, with underfloor heating and full disability access. It’s been a huge project for us but all the work will be worthwhile when we can open the doors to this new warm, inviting space to everyone.”

Glenasmole Community Association Dublin Community Finance Ireland Loan
Photographed at Glenasmole Community Centre are Barry Symes, Head of Community Finance Ireland ROI; Glenasmole Community Association board members John Lee and Angela McCann. Photo Credit: Julien Behal.

After being awarded a Dublin Rural LEADER grant and funding by South Dublin County Council for the planned refurbishments, Glenasmole Community Association approached Community Finance Ireland in 2020 to provide a bridging loan of €292,000 to undertake the works.

John says the bridging loan from CFI brought their dream to reality:

“If it wasn’t for Community Finance Ireland, we wouldn’t be here today. I’m a retired quantity surveyor and I’ve managed building works and budgets my whole career but for our group here – who are all volunteers – the sums we were looking at to get this off the ground were daunting. Because they support volunteer and community groups, CFI didn’t ask us for personal guarantees, and just talking to their team eased the financial fears. Nothing felt unsurmountable after that.”

Visiting the site ahead of completion, Barry Symes, Head of Community Finance ROI, congratulated John and the GCA team on the project’s success. He said:

“At CFI we talk about changemakers – the people in local communities who see an opportunity to create something and go for it. Glenasmole Community Association are the epitome of changemakers from the day they set out to build the original centre from scratch. We’re delighted to have supported GCA in this project and I have no doubt that they’ve created something which will serve the community for their next fifty years and beyond.”

Located just ten miles from O’Connell Street, Glenasmole is a small, rural community in the Dublin mountains. In 1972, the newly formed GCA purchased and erected a second-hand, pre-cast concrete pavilion, completing ancillary works in 1974. Built and run entirely by volunteers, the community hall became a hub for all generations, providing a much-needed space for Mother and Baby Groups, Youth Clubs, Drama Group productions, as well as a HSE-funded Health Clinic.

Glenasmole Community Association Dublin Community Finance Ireland Loan
Photographed at Glenasmole Community Centre are local youths Benjamin and Oscar Carey, and Michael Morell. Photo Credit: Julien Behal.

With the building works almost complete, the GCA has their sights set on the surrounding areas with plans to develop walkways and biodiverse landscapes in a 5-acre plot that has been purchased for community-ownership.

John said:

“There are people who grew up in Glenasmole and spent their childhood running wild in the mountains, who have moved away and now bring their own kids back to visit – we want them to think of this centre as their home too, to meet and reconnect with the community and the beautiful surroundings we have here.”

If you and your community facility need advice, get in touch today or follow us on Twitter.  

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– £18 million social finance provided to Northern Ireland voluntary sector since 2016

Belfast charity, Kids Together, has purchased a new premises on the city’s Springfield Road, with £150,000 support from social finance providers, Community Finance Ireland.  The purchase will allow Kids Together to provide services for 408 children and people with complex needs each year, in response to increasing demands from local health trusts. 

Since 2016, Community Finance Ireland has supported 166 social enterprises and organisations from across the community and voluntary sector in Northern Ireland, with a total of £18.1 million in social finance loans.

Phelim Sharvin, Head of Community Finance Ireland, Northern Ireland said:

“The rate at which Kids Together has expanded its service offering is indicative of the team’s professionalism and expertise and their desire to respond positively to the ever-increasing needs of individuals and their families. We’re delighted to support the next phase of Kids Together’s growth and development.  Community Finance Ireland has provided £18million in social finance to Northern Ireland’s voluntary sector since 2016 and we’re proud that almost a third of that has gone to organisations like Kids Together, which delivers Community Services, Childcare and Health and Wellbeing services.” 

Kids Together was established in 2005 and delivers wide-ranging childcare, youth programmes and specialist care/therapy support for children and young adults with complex disabilities.  Service users are located across the Greater Belfast area and growing demand from Health Trusts and families created the need for a new property. 

Kids Together Belfast Community Finance Ireland
Photographed at the new Kids Together Springfield Road premises in Belfast Orlaith Bradley and Sharon McCloskey, Kids Together and Phelim Sharvin Head of Community Finance Ireland’s Northern Ireland business.

Mairead McCrea who founded the charity explains:

“The demand for our services has risen every year since 2005 and the acquisition of the new property, which includes a lift for service users, is a great opportunity for Kids Together to help secure our future and deliver key services on-site . The social finance support and advice from the team at Community Finance Ireland that allowed us to move forward with the of our new property, has been invaluable.  Phelim and the team really understand and encourage our plans for growth and development.  We couldn’t have made the new property purchase and therefore extend our services without their help and advice.”

If you and your community facility need advice, get in touch today or follow us on Twitter.  

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– £18 million social finance provided to Northern Ireland voluntary sector since 2016

Ballymoney-based, Compass Advocacy Network has purchased and developed a social farm which provides training and leisure opportunities for over 50 people with learning disabilities each weekday, with support from social finance providers, Community Finance Ireland.  A total loan value of £350,000 enabled the purchase of the 11-acre site and farmhouse outside Ballymoney, and the subsequent installation of phase-3 electricity and upgrade of the farm’s outbuildings.   

Since 2016, Community Finance Ireland has supported 166 social enterprises and organisations from across the community and voluntary sector in Northern Ireland, with a total of £18.1 million in social finance loans.

Peter Smyth, Client Relationship Manager at Community Finance Ireland said:

Each time we meet the team at Compass Advocacy Network, we are blown away by their innovation and ambition. At Community Finance Ireland we support a huge range of community and volunteer-led projects from sports projects to social enterprises to faith-based groups, but they all start with an ideas and a group of people who want to make it work.

The opportunities that Compass Advocacy Network provide for vulnerable adults from across multiple sites are incredible and we were delighted to support the purchase and development of Lislagan Farm.

We are proud to have made almost a third of our £18 million social finance available to organisations like Compass Advocacy Network, which deliver Community Services, Childcare, Health and Wellbeing and Education and Training.”

Compass Advocacy Network Peter Smyth Janet Schofield Community loans
Photographed at Compass Advocacy Network’s Lislagan Farm are Peter Smyth, Client Relationship Manager for Community Finance Ireland, Clint Langley, Compass Advocacy Service User and Janet Schofield, Chief Executive of Compass Advocacy Network.

The Compass Advocacy Group was established in 1997 to provide education, learning and employment opportunities to vulnerable adults. CAN’s bases provide social and leisure opportunities for over 50 people with learning disabilities per day, 5 days a week in Ballymoney, Ballymena and Coleraine.

Janet Schofield, Chief Executive at Compass Advocacy Network explained:

As a user-led organisation, the people we support are at the heart of our decision making. As well as social and leisure opportunities, our social enterprises which include recycling, upcycling and retail, give our users real work-based training towards employment.

The social finance support and advice from the team at Community Finance Ireland that allowed us to purchase and carry out improvement works at Lislagan Farm, has been invaluable. Peter and the team really understand and encourage our plans for growth and development. We couldn’t have made our plans for the farm a reality without them.”

If you and your community facility need advice, get in touch today or follow us on Twitter.  

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– Community Finance Ireland delivers €1.2million in support of Limerick communities

Newcastle West Tennis Club is ready to welcome new members for 2023 as newly resurfaced courts ensure all-weather access and state of the art facilities for players of all ages and experiences. The club has completed renovations with the support of Community Finance Ireland, an all-island social finance provider. 

Newcastle West Tennis Club, which was founded in 1927, had been closed for seven years when a group of volunteers were inspired to reopen the club during the first 2020 lockdown. The club now has 370 members on its books, aged between six and 70.  

Cllr Tom Ruddle, Chair of Newcastle West Tennis Club, said:

The courts were in a bad state of disrepair. In those first weeks, we put in a lot of hard work to clean the place up. We were determined to bring it up to scratch and received initial Council grants to install floodlights and make improvement to the grounds.”

With further funding needed to resurface the courts, Newcastle West Tennis Club was approved €42.5k in Sports Capital Grants but this presented the group of volunteers with a new challenge.  

“We were delighted to be approved Sports Capital Grant funding, but to access that we had to undertake the works in order to then claim back the grant,” said Cllr Ruddle. “As volunteers we couldn’t take on that kind of financial responsibility from a traditional bank and go into debt for the sake of the club. Luckily, we were able to access a bridging loan from Community Finance Ireland to get started and unlock the grant. It was a fantastic solution.” 

As a social enterprise, Community Finance Ireland provides social finance loans to volunteer-led and community organisations that drive social impact.  

Photographed at Newcastle West Tennis Club are Chairperson Tom Ruddle, Nora Keogh, Community Finance Ireland Client Relationship Manager for Munster, and pupils from Courtenay Boys’ School and Killoughteen National School.

Nora Keogh, Client Relationship Manager for Munster, said:

Newcastle West Tennis Club has such a rich history and it’s an important facility for the town and the wider community. We were delighted to be able to help Tom and the team get their renovations underway and players can get back on the courts. At Community Finance Ireland, we have a wealth of experience working with community organisations and our supports are tailored for their needs- we don’t ask for personal guarantees and our loans are fast, fair and flexible.”

Ms Keogh has played a role in supporting 66 organisations in Munster to access a total of €7 million in social finance supports since 2016. She said: “We’ve worked with nine organisations in Limerick already but as far as I’m concerned, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If there are more sports clubs, arts organisations, faith-based groups and social enterprises out there who want to make a change for their local community, I’m here to help them make that possible.” 

Cllr Ruddle says Community Finance Ireland is the only way to go for sports clubs:

It’s a no brainer. What struck me most was the level of trust and personal care from Nora and the Community Finance Ireland team. I’ve been involved in local clubs my whole life and I’d definitely be recommending them to other clubs and community groups in Limerick”

If you and your sporting facility need advice, get in touch today or follow us on Twitter.  

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The festive season is a time for reflection, for love and cheer, for making memories and spending quality time with family and friends. It is also a time for community and for charity.

The cost of living crisis continues to affect people across the island of Ireland, but also social enterprises and businesses striving to deliver social impact in the Community and Voluntary Sector.

As you contemplate your Christmas list this year, why not consider some of the gifts and activities that support social enterprises in your area? Delivered by volunteers and community champions, these home-grown experiences and products are great gift ideas, and will also deliver social impact to communities that are local to you in Connacht.

Here are just a few ideas for you to think about:

Ballinasloe Town Hall Theatre, Co. Galway

Ballinasloe Town Hall’s Christmas panto Cinderella is performed by local drama society B’Sloe Panto and marks their return to the stage for their first Christmas show since the Covid 19 Pandemic. Running from Monday 5th December to Sunday 11th December it’s sure to be a fun day out for all the family.

Tickets for this event are available online or from the ticket office at J&S Photos, Society Street, Ballinasloe.

The Glens Centre, Co. Leitrim

It has been two years since their last community Christmas show, but the Rabbit’s Riot Theatre Company are back with a new show written by Treasa Nealon, directed by Sonia Norris and produced by the Glens Centre.

The characters of Fairy-Tale Land TV Show are on strike! The prince is tired of rescuing the princesses, the villains are in dire need of some anger management and the step-mothers just want everyone to know how misunderstood they are! But Sarah is determined to get them on her screens, because otherwise she will have to spend more time with her family and less time on her phone.

Join her on her unexpected and magical journey through Fairy-Tale Land this December. With four shows running from 9th to 11th December, get your tickets now.

An Mheithal Comhshaol Co-Op, Co. Mayo

The award-winning An Mheitheal Rothar (AMR) are a social-sustainable enterprise based in Galway city who are rolling out an expanded service at their community workshop at NUI Galway and at their retail outlet in Galway Shopping Centre, thanks to recent investment from Community Finance Ireland.

Founded in 2012, An Mheitheal Rothar provides access to cycling and cycling mechanic skills training to people in Galway, regardless of their ability to pay. In 2018, the social enterprise introduced their award winning ‘Recycle Your Cycle’ initiative, which repairs and upcycles second-hand bikes.

Whether you want to view the latest range of bikes on offer or book your own bicycle in for a fine tune, visit their website for more info.

Christmas Competition

Community Finance Ireland have teamed up with Martin Hurls to offer a £100 voucher to spend on their wares. One lucky winner will win this in our Facebook Competition running in the lead up to Christmas. To be in with a chance of winning simply visit the Facebook post below and follow the instructions to be entered into the draw.

Spending your time and money in these venues and on these products not only helps deliver social impact but is an endorsement that, the local volunteers and committees’ efforts are valued.

#SocialTime is always a good time.

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The festive season is a time for reflection, for love and cheer, for making memories and spending quality time with family and friends. It is also a time for community and for charity.

The cost of living crisis continues to affect people across the island of Ireland, but also social enterprises and businesses striving to deliver social impact in the Community and Voluntary Sector.

As you contemplate your Christmas list this year, why not consider some of the gifts and activities that support social enterprises in your area? Delivered by volunteers and community champions, these home-grown experiences and products are great gift ideas, and will also deliver social impact to communities that are local to you in Leinster.

Here are just a few ideas for you to think about:

Dunbrody Famine Ship, Co. Wexford

The Santa Wonderland Experience returns to the Dunbrody Visitor Centre again this year for 11 dates, commencing on Saturday 3rd December and running right up until 23rd December.

Come along to the Magical Wonderland, meet mischievous elves, HoneyComb & Peppermint, and see Santa & Mrs. Claus busily preparing for the most important night of the year.

Santa and his hardworking team are determined to pull out all the stops to ensure everyone has a safe and memorable visit.

It’s a mesmerising experience from start to finish and offers families an abundance of photo opportunities. Tickets are priced at €18 per child (this includes an age appropriate present) and €10 per Adult. For more information and to book your slot visit the website.

Castlecomer Discovery Park, Co. Kilkenny

Castlecomer Discovery Park’s elf village becomes Christmas central this year, as they light up the area around the fairy houses to gear up the festive feels. The beautiful Christmas lights transform the space into a wonderful destination for a winter walk.

Children aged 3-8 can bounce off some pre-Christmas energy in the bouncing nets and junior adventure course and take part in the elf on the shelf scavenger hunt, while mum and dad can enjoy hot chocolate or mulled wine from the Canopy Café.

For more information and to buy tickets visit Castlecomer Discovery Park’s Website.

Butler Gallery, Co. Kilkenny

Butler Gallery continues its successful partnership with the immensely talented Kilkenny-based and five time Oscar© nominated Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon, in an exhibition response to their new animated film My Father’s Dragon, directed by Nora Twomey.

The film is based on a beloved 1948 fantastical children’s novel by Ruth Stilies Gannett about Elmer Elevator, a boy who runs away from home to rescue Boris, a captive baby dragon trapped on a wild island.

The exhibition which runs to the 29th January is curated by Anna O’Sullivan, Butler Gallery Director, and designed by award winning exhibition designer Steven McNamara of Roji.

The exhibition combines the expertise of Butler Gallery’s exhibition team with Cartoon Saloons worldwide reach and distinctive style to develop an immersive, sensory and child-centred exhibition experience that will captivate audiences of all ages. Get your tickets now.

Christmas Competition

Community Finance Ireland have teamed up with Martin Hurls to offer a £100 voucher to spend on their wares. One lucky winner will win this in our Facebook Competition running in the lead up to Christmas. To be in with a chance of winning simply visit our the Facebook post and follow the instructions to be entered into the draw.

Spending your time and money in these venues and on these products not only helps deliver social impact but is an endorsement that, the local volunteers and committees’ efforts are valued.

#SocialTime is always a good time.

Share this article:

The festive season is a time for reflection, for love and cheer, for making memories and spending quality time with family and friends. It is also a time for community and for charity.

The cost of living crisis continues to affect people across the island of Ireland, but also social enterprises and businesses striving to deliver social impact in the Community and Voluntary Sector.

As you contemplate your Christmas list this year, why not consider some of the gifts and activities that support social enterprises in your area? Delivered by volunteers and community champions, these home-grown experiences and products are great gift ideas, and will also deliver social impact to communities that are local to you in Ulster.

Here are just a few ideas for you to think about:

The Strand Arts Centre, Co. Antrim

Strand Arts Centre is the only remaining cinema from Northern Ireland’s golden era. A jewel of Art Deco design, the venue has been at the heart of the East Belfast community for decades.

This year’s Christmas movie offerings include classics and family favourites: It’s a Wonderful Life, Home Alone, Elf, Muppets’ Christmas Carol and Die Hard (Is it a Christmas movie?).

Their live Christmas spectacle for 2022 is Once Upon A Time: A Magical Princess Adventure with shows on 2nd and 3rd December and the CBeebies Panto Dick Whittington and His Cat (which will screen live at the Strand on 3rd,4th, 10th and 11th December) are a great excuse for some quality time with the kids to get you in the festive mood.

For more information, to book your tickets, or to buy Strand gift vouchers for the cinephiles in your family, visit the Strand’s website.

Bolster Community, Co. Down

Bolster Community (formerly Space NI) is a charity and social enterprise that offers practical support for individuals and families, helping them to get through and get ahead.

As part of their activity the organisation manage the candle-making social enterprise Acorn. Every Acorn product is handmade in Northern Ireland by a gifted community of young adults with additional needs. They provide their makers with a ‘scents’ of achievement and ensure every purchase provides them with pride, purpose and opportunity. By buying social, all profits from your purchase goes back into supporting Bolster Community’s vital services.

You can buy one of their unique scented candles from their website, a perfect stocking filler.

Martin Hurls, Co. Antrim

Martin Hurls is an artisan maker of hand-made hurls used in Gaelic Games. As well as producing some of the best hurls in Ireland, they also have a range of equipment, apparel and mementos to keep you looking & playing your best. The perfect gift for sport lovers at Christmas time. Check out their range online.

Christmas Competition

Community Finance Ireland have teamed up with Martin Hurls to offer a £100 voucher to spend on their wares. One lucky winner will win this in our Facebook Competition running in the lead up to Christmas. To be in with a chance of winning simply visit our the Facebook post and follow the instructions to be entered into the draw.

Spending your time and money in these venues and on these products not only helps deliver social impact but is an endorsement that, the local volunteers and committees’ efforts are valued.

#SocialTime is always a good time.

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