The visitor to Cork in the late nineteen sixties would have seen a busy, bustling Centre City, with its elegant buildings and fashionable shop windows.
But in the lanes and side streets off the main thoroughfares, there existed a very different reality. It was here that one encountered the tenements where many of the City’s elderly citizens lived in damp, dreary bed-sits, in basement and attic.
In 1969 Br. Jerome Kelly returned from Missionary work in the West Indies and was appointed Principal of Presentation College. His arrival was to have a profound affect on the lives of very many people – old and young.
In an effort to awaken and develop a social consciousness in his pupils, Br. Jerome organised a series of workshops for the senior students in the school. He invited Douglas Hyde, who before his own conversion had been Editor of the Communist Newspaper, the Daily Worker, to guide the students through the weeklong programme. Douglas Hyde was impressed by the idealism of the students. His aim was to harness their enthusiasm to enable them to bring about change. While encouraging them to think globally, he advised them to act locally.
To this end, he sent them out in twos and threes to walk the lanes and side streets of the city in an effort to identify the real needs of the people. What they discovered horrified them. But they were unanimous in their belief that the greatest single need was the plight of the elderly citizens.
This is what they saw. Men and women, citizens of their own city apparently forgotten by their own people, with nobody to speak to them or for them. How the students sought and obtained the support of the Civic Leaders for their project is well known, and especially the support they received from the then City Manager, Mr. Joe McHugh. Everybody is also well aware of the importance for them of linking their campaign with the Christian message of the Gospel and of the significance and relevance of the Christmas Crib.
Their endeavours slowly caught the imagination of the citizens of Cork; so that by 1975 they had sufficient funds to begin the building of the first S.H.A.R.E. Complex; and twelve houses in Sheares Street, were opened the following year. One of the learnings for the group was that while the Residents were now comfortable and secure in their new homes, loneliness was still a problem. And so, the practice of regular visits was initiated. Other needs were also identified and responded to, including the provision of a laundry service.
The interest and involvement of students from all the Second Level schools in the City have helped S.H.A.R.E. become the very unique organisation that it is to-day.
Furthermore, the support of the parents of the Students led to the establishment of the “S.H.A.R.E. Mothers.” The enthusiastic support of the people of Cork ensured the rapid development of S.H.A.R.E. throughout the City. S.H.A.R.E.’S efforts to provide a greater feeling of security and a more tangible sense of community led to the organisation adopting the “Sheltered Housing” concept with the opening of Dún Rís in 1988 and Mt. St. Joseph (a gift from the Presentation Brothers) in 1993. The opening of the Day Care Centre in 2001 carries this concept a step further.