A social enterprise based in Whitehead has been recognised for its hard work and dedication at a prize-giving event last week.
The first ever South Antrim Community Network awards, which took place at Carrick’s Clarion Hotel, aimed to mark the contribution of a number of community groups and volunteers.
Among the winners at the event were Heritage Engineering Ireland Ltd, a subsidiary group of Whitehead’s Railway Preservation Society Ireland, who picked up the Award for an Initiative.
The social enterprise, which tackles unemployment through inter-generational activities, was set up by RPSI in 2012 to handle both the engineering work of the RPSI and general contract work.
The group currently employs six full-time and part-time staff, together with a trainee placement and 50 volunteers ranging in age from 16 to 80.
The placement scheme enables the apprentice and younger volunteers to learn from the skills and knowledge of more mature employees, with HEI aiming to expand the business and its labour force in the future.
Speaking to the Times at the prize-giving event last Thursday were RPSI members Peter Scott and Francis Richards, both directors of HEI.
“Heritage Engineering Ireland was set up almost two years ago to take on the engineering, maintenance and refurbishment work that was normally carried out on a volunteer basis; most of the employees are from the Carrick and Whitehead area,” said Whitehead resident Francis.
“We have had quite a few projects going on recently; the station building at Whitehead re-opened on time and under budget, which doesn’t happen very often! T
“here’s also an ongoing restoration project at the moment for locomotive 131, which hasn’t run in over 50 years.”
Peter added: “This is the first major award we’ve received in a few years but there have been grants from the likes of the Heritage Lottery Fund, GROW South Antrim, Ulster Garden Villages and Carrick Council. There’s also a £100 prize here today.”
Congratulating the award-winners was South Antrim Community Network chair Seamus Davis. “The awards highlighted just how exceptional the people who live in South Antrim are and the tremendous contribution they make within and to their communities,” he said. “It is very important to say thank you to everyone and to recognise that they are appreciated for their continuous hard work and dedication.”
Wendy Kerr, SACN network manager added: “Congratulations again to everyone who was nominated, to the entrants and all the winners. The community is at the heart of our organisation, and we are so pleased to have over 150 members within the area.”
South Antrim Community Network provides local community development support and a tailored advice service to groups within Carrickfergus, Antrim and Newtownabbey. Members include community and voluntary organisations, village groups and social economy enterprises.