A reason to celebrate - Aaron House at 25

27.8.2020 | Mission News, Social Witness, Moderator, Mission

While it wasn’t the celebration that they had hoped and planned for, the residents and staff of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s (PCI) residential home for people with profound learning and physical disability in Dundonald, have celebrated their 25th anniversary.

The home has been part of the Ballybeen community since it opened in the estate in 1995. Accommodating 14 residents on a permanent basis, its day care centre, which usually supports 9 people, has been closed since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, as have the two rooms that are available for respite care.

Home manager Isabel Harper said that in these days, the anniversary was an opportunity to celebrate something good and uplifting. “This has been a challenging time for everyone, so we needed a good reason to celebrate and a quarter of a century of caring and providing a home to some wonderful people was more than enough of a reason to do just that!

When we celebrated our 20th anniversary, we had over 300 friends and family join us, a bouncy castle and face painting, animals to pet, a magician, BBQ and a brass band. Because of Covid we couldn’t do that, so it was just our residents and staff who were on duty today who celebrated with a tea party, a great cake made by our chef, Will, and a special balloon launch, which our residents took part in. It wasn’t the celebration that we had planned, but we wanted to mark this special moment. All our staff got a bag of chocolate hearts with ‘AH’ on each one, just to say ‘thank you’.”

Today, seven members of the fifty-strong staff team were at Aaron House when it opened, with four of them having served continuously since 1995, three having left, but came back. While not original members of staff, another four have attained over 20 years’ service each.

Talking about Aaron House Isabel said, “It is not just a place of work, all of us feel that it is an extended part of our families. We care about our residents, as this is their lifelong home and we feel truly blessed to be a part of such a wonderful place.”

Unable to attend himself, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rt Rev Dr David Bruce, sent a message to home manager, Isabel Harper, in which he congratulated the residents and staff on their special anniversary. “While the celebrations have had to change in light of current circumstances, I know that some things haven’t changed over the last quarter of a century. Put simply, this is the team’s solid commitment to providing a warm, caring and loving environment for everyone who calls Aaron House home, and the support this gives to families.

"Together, this makes for a wonderful demonstration of Jesus’ love for others, which is also a powerful social witness to the gospel. Please pass on my best wishes, admiration and appreciation on behalf of the whole Church to the staff and community of Aaron House on this significant birthday!”

The Moderator also talked about this summer’s virtual garden competition in which Aaron House was awarded first prize. Dr Bruce said, “Zoe and I enjoyed seeing the pictures from the competition – and were hugely impressed by the attention to detail and imagination shown by everyone who was involved with this. The environment you have created is a testimony to the care of Christ and his love for us.”

Since the formation of the Presbyterian Orphan and Children’s society in 1866, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland has played a key role in ministering to the physical needs of people. This approach continues overseas, and though its homes and support units, and the work of its congregations on the ground across Ireland.

Originally managed by the Currie Community, PCI took over its management in 2009 in partnership with Choice Housing Association, who are responsible for the maintenance of the building. Today, the Church’s Council for Social Witness (CSW), is responsible for the overall management of Aaron House and the denomination’s nursing and residential care homes, along with its supported housing schemes for people with a learning disability, former offenders and those recovering from substance abuse.

CSW Secretary, Lindsay Conway, who joined in the celebrations, said that the fact that so many members of staff were still there 25 years on speaks volumes about them and the atmosphere at Aaron House. “There is no doubt that Aaron House is a special place. As we celebrate 25 years, I want to pay tribute to the original vision of the Curry Community and the local community who continue to support Aaron House today.”

Mr Conway continued, “To the staff, particularly over the last exceptionally challenging five months, I would also like to pay tribute and thank them, as they have continued to go the extra mile for residents, keeping everyone safe, all of which has been a great reassurance to families and loved ones.”

Photos (1) Celebrating 25 years of Aaron House are (left to right) Denise Keegan PCI's Head of Older People's Services and a former Aaron House Home Manager, Lesley Rice, one of the original residents with Ann Burns, who joined the staff team when Aaron House opened in 1995, Lindsay Conway, Secretary to PCI's Council for Social Witness, Adele Warren, who is also one of the original residents with home manager, Isabel Harper (2) the celebration cake (3) staff and residents launch celebratory baloons at the special tea party.

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