Wednesday, 13 August 2008

The great Portrane sale helps ‘the poorest of the poor’

Mary Lynders … her energy and enthusiasm are infectious

Patrick Comerford

This week’s rains in Dublin and the floods last weekend and ever since have been a major disappointment. After more almost 4½ hours on the M50 on Saturday night, I had to give up all efforts to get to a barbeque in Portrane, and turn home dejected.

It was so disappointing – not just because I was missing out on a good Saturday night, but because the Lynders family in Portrane are among the best bunch of people I know, and are among my favourite cousins.

I was not alone in failing to get to it, but the barbeque was a great night and those who did make it “had a blast.” It was a real celebration of the fantastic success of the three-day August Bank Holiday Sale at The Quay in Portrane.

For the last few years, this sale has been a major date in the social and community diary for everyone on the North County peninsula that is Portrane and Donabate. From dawn on Saturday morning until dusk on Monday evening, August Bank Holiday was one “fund-raising rave” at The Quay, the home of Mary Lynders and her family.

There were tents, gazebos, marquees and open tables to make space for the book stalls, the bric-a-brac, the antiques, the furniture, the designer clothes, the Halloween and Christmas gifts, the toys and novelties, the children’s gifts, the plants … and the wheel-of-fortune, where most of the children – and even some of the adults – put their hopes on winning the Giant Toblerone.

You name it and Mary had someone to run a stall with it to raise funds for “Hand to Heart,” the project that has become her life’s mission and that consumes every waking and thinking moment of her committed life. Mary’s enthusiasm is so infectious that she has persuaded, enlisted, cajoled and conscripted the most diverse but wonderful group of assistants for the mega sale, which takes place in full carnival atmosphere.

Those who come to support the mega sale each year can hardly imagine the year-round slog of hard work and preparation that goes in to making this weekend the success it is. Mary and her daughters, Antoinette, Mar, and Anna, spend sleepless nights and forego weekends just to get everything together, and to pack the containers that no-one sees during the sale. For it’s all in aid of “Heart to Hand,” which works helping the poorest of the poor in Albania and Romania.

“Heart to Hand” works with poorest of the poor in countries such like Albania, Bosnia, Moldova and Romania.

“Heart to Hand” is a registered, non-denominational, charity working with the poorest of the poor in countries like Albania, Bosnia, Moldova and Romania, sending out medicine, clothing, shoes, food, non-perishable goods, furniture, and other humanitarian aid, as well as helping education, building and training projects, with support channelled through local communities, schools, orphanages and churches.

The story of “Heart to Hand” goes back to 1991, when Kieran Byrne, a transport haulier from Co Wexford, was watching a television documentary that graphically portrayed showed in the devastation and deprivation in Romania, with children abandoned in the streets, and poor and hungry people living in dilapidated buildings.

Kieran was traumatised and with the help of friends and neighbours sent out two loads of humanitarian aid to Bucharest. There he met Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who asked Kieran to help her people in Albania and Romania, saying that “the Lord would provide” if there was a positive response.

When Mary Lynders saw a similar programme she got in touch with the producers and was eventually put in touch with Kieran. Through people like Mary and her wonderful, life-affirming family, the response has been positive and “the Lord has been providing for this charity ever since.”

“Heart to Hand” has helped to build Saint Joseph’s House, a shelter for street children in Bucharest and that opened in 1999 to cater for 26 street children and that is run by an organisation known appropriately as the Street Children of Bucharest. “Heart to Hand” is also involved in supporting Caritas in northern Romania in training and education programmes. One example is provided by a massive attic that has been converted into school rooms, offices and toilets for the children of a local village, where a state-of-the-art school is now in place.

Working with people who have this sort of vision, hope and love is one of the most rewarding life experiences I can have. And, to add to the joys of it all, working on the book stall with William and Dan in the red-and-white marquee was three days of fun. As for watching Antoinette entertain and enchant those bedazzled children – well, that was eye-opening.

But then Portrane is a little, romantic corner of heaven. After all, The Quay is where my grandparents met and it was from that same house that they got married.

After donations, this year’s sale in Portrane is expected to equal if not pass last year’s figure of more than €32,000. When the work was over and done, I spent Tuesday at the clear-up, but I was sure there is a lot more to be done long after I had vanished home.

I’m still upset about missing the BBQ, when we could have all celebrated this wonderful achievement. If you missed the sale, you can still send your donation to “Heart to Hand,” c/o Mrs Mary Lynders, the Quay, Portrane, Co Dublin. And if you have good clothes to donate, she’s hoping another container will be going out soon, thanks to Kieran Byrne’s organisational skills and dedication. Why not give a helping hand?

You can read more about “Heart to Hand” at www.hearttohand.net, where there is more information about the charity and its story. For a feature in the Irish Examiner by Terry Prone, who lives in the Martello Tower in Portrane, click on this link: http://www.examiner.ie/irishexaminer/pages/story.aspx-qqqg=opinion-qqqm=opinion-qqqa=general-qqqid=68953-qqqx=1.asp