A BUSY, socially distanced AGM to mark the 30th anniversary of the Aisling Centre saw the appointment of a new Chair and Vice-Chairperson, Alison Annan and Roberta Hamilton, respectively.

Alison joined the Board of Directors almost two decades ago, replacing fellow officer, the late Jimmy Crowe, who had served as Chairperson of the Aisling Centre Board of Management.

At the time, Alison was a serving Youth Liaison Officer and had a working knowledge of the centre, having helped many individuals and families find support there.

Reflecting back on her early years with Aisling Centre, Alison said she was “delighted to be associated with such a reputable organisation".

She said she always knew in making referrals to Aisling Centre that people would receive a professional service in a safe and confidential environment.

Accepting her nomination as Chairperson, Alison said “as a volunteer and a member of the local community, it was a privilege to be elected to the position of Chairperson".

Other appointments included retired local businessman Marshall Coalter, who was appointed Company Secretary, while Neville Armstrong remains in his post as Company Treasurer.

Stepping down from the Board of Directors after many years of dedicated service were Sr. Edel Bannon, Sr. Mary deLacy and Pat Cassidy.

In stepping down, all three spoke of their pride in Aisling Centre and the support it offers the local community.

With one voice, they described their time on the Board as both an honour and a privilege.

Outgoing Chairperson Dr. Ann McDermott presented a beautiful painting of Lough Erne by the late Liam Blake to the Centre as part of a presentation during its AGM.

As she made the presentation, Ann spoke of Liam’s genius as an artist alongside his struggle with mental health, and how it felt appropriate that one of his paintings should hang in the centre.

Coinciding with the centre’s 30th anniversary year, it just “felt right” that this painting should hang in Aisling Centre, recognising both the genius of the local artist and the great work done by centre in breaking down the stigma around poor mental health.

Reflecting on her term of office, Ann spoke of the exponential growth in the work of Aisling Centre.

She said: “While it may not look very different from six years ago, the serene face of Aisling hides an enormous increase in activity, generated from the year-on-year increase in need."

In 2015/16, Aisling Centre was receiving an average of 37 referrals per month, with 369 clients attending for counselling that, in itself, was a significant increase from previous years.

Today that number has more than doubled, and Aisling Centre now receives an average of 80 referrals a month, with 801 people – adults and children – attending counselling at the centre last year.

As she stepped down from her position as Chairperson, Ann thanked her Vice-Chairperson, Alison Annan, and fellow Directors for their hard work and commitment to Aisling Centre and for the great support during her tenure.

Directors and staff paid tributes to Ann’s capable and steady hand as Chairperson. With her quiet, unobtrusive, genuine and respectful leadership, she had facilitated and provided the space to allow change and growth in the centre’s work to happen.

Incoming Chairperson, Alison Annan, thanked Ann for her generosity in donating the Liam Blake painting.

The final item on the agenda for the AGM was the appointment of Aisling Centre’s first Honorary Lifetime Member.

The outgoing Chairperson, and the Treasurer, Neville Armstrong, proposed an Honorary Lifetime Membership for Sr. Edel, who they described as “a steadfast supporter of the centre; a mentor to Aisling Centre staff, and a willing friend and confidant to her fellow Directors".

They continued: "She embodies the core values of Aisling Centre: respect, empathy and inclusivity.”

Accepting the nomination, Sr. Edel said “It is a rare honour to become a Lifetime Honorary Member of the Aisling Centre. On a personal level, I feel unworthy, but I am very happy to receive it on behalf of the Sisters of Mercy, who initially supported the project with both personnel and finance."

Reflecting back on the early years of the centre, Sr. Edel referred to its founding vision statement and objectives, and said she was “both happy and proud to think that, 30 years later, all of this had come to pass, and that the ethos of welcome and hospitality continues.

"I have no doubt the centre will go from strength to strength, continuing to support the local community in the years ahead."

Aisling Centre offers a free and professional counselling and child play therapy service from its centre in Enniskillen.

During the ongoing pandemic, counselling services are also available via telephone or remote Zoom meetings.

For further information, contact the Centre at 028 66 325811, or see its website, www.theaislingcentre.com.