Rainbow Club celebrates half a century of service to elderly and disabled

May 30, 2016

A very special Anniversary Dance is set to take place next  month to celebrate one of Crossmaglen’s longest running voluntary services which has been at the heart of the local community for five decades.  The much-loved Rainbow Club, set up in 1966 with the purpose of providing social and recreational activities for people with disabilities and older people, will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a dress dance in the Carrickdale Hotel on Sunday 12th June.   The remarkable 50 year feat will be fittingly celebrated with dinner and dance from 1pm – 6pm,with  music provided by Country Harmony.

Ahead of the special occasion, The Examiner spoke to tireless local volunteer Edna Hand, who has spent over 40 years offering her time and support to her local community via the Rainbow Group.

Edna told us how the club was set up by a few concerned, caring people who identified the need and could see the damaging effect of isolation on the disabled, their carers and the elderly.

Over the years Crossmaglen Rainbow Club has developed with changing needs and expectations but it remains a cross community venture which operates an “open door policy” to include anyone who may benefit from and enjoy friendship and support.

“The Thursday club is held in Cross Community Centre every Thursday at 8pm, with members travelling by bus and taxi to attend this important social outing,” explained Edna..

“At the club we have youth activities, music therapy, arts and crafts, conversation, quizzes and fun!,” she added.

“We run a bingo session for those who enjoy it, along with supper, live music and dancing and we have also enjoyed many birthday parties with our members over the years.

“We attend concerts regularly and travel as a large group who are well known in many venues and we also hold seasonal parties and holidays for our members and their carers,” she revealed.

The club also managed the Cosy Corner Playgroup for over 40 years, and throughout its time it has given children with special needs the opportunity to integrate from an early age.

“In the Rainbow Club we take a keen interest in the needs of the less able in our community and we campaigned for the retention and upgrading of Crossmaglen Day Centre,” continued Edna.

“The whole community supported this effort and we had a very successful outcome.

“We hope our club gives our members, young and not so young the opportunity to develop friendships and feel relaxed among their peer group and in wider society.

“We endeavour to normalise life for people with disability or difficulties, to encourage community integration and our goal is to provide friendship, activities and a space where members enjoy time among friends.”

Urging more young people to get involved in volunteering to experience for themselves the rewards of such a commitment, Edna encourages all young people in the area to come along to the Thursday night activities and give up their time for this wonderful club which has provided invaluable support to the elderly and disabled over the years.

Describing volunteers as the “lifeblood” of The Rainbow Club Edna revealed there was a need to recruit more young people onto the committee to enable the club to continue to provide vital support for the elderly and disabled for many years to come.

“We offer our opportunity to young people to come and volunteer at our Thursday club,” said the lifelong volunteer.

“This encourages normalisation and integration whilst giving a valuable experience to young people who enjoy it immensely.  Over the years, with changing lifestyles, we have found it difficult to recruit people who could join our committee –  a problem common to all committees at present.

Appealing for young volunteers to come forward, Edna said,

“As a long serving committee, we would welcome new members so if you could help please get in touch with us, you would be most welcome.

“We hope to be able to continue this work for generations to come – so if you can help – join us!”

Anyone interested in volunteering with the Rainbow Club is invited to come along to any of the Thursday evening sessions at Crossmaglen Community Centre or to contact any of the club’s committee members for more details.

The grateful volunteer also extended her heartfelt thanks to the entire community for its support over the last five decades and to the many individuals and groups who have donated money or food or helped out in any way.

“We also thank the founders and the many people who have served on the committee, all our local musicians and transport providers.  In this statutory sector we also thank Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and staff and The Southern Trust and their staff,” she added.

Tickets for the upcoming Anniversary Dance are €25 and will be available though committee members.

“We hope that all our friends and supporters will come along to share in this special occasion with our members and help us to mark this wonderful milestone of 50 years of service to the people of Crossmaglen and beyond.”