Simone Dillon is employed as Food Services Manager here at Tait House Community Enterprise. After experiencing Tait House for the first time many years ago she says it was the beginning of something that changed her life. Here she tells us her story.
“I grew up in Southill and faced most of the challenges that others faced in that area over recent years. This was a part of the city that was hit by huge challenges over the past 3 decades. Southill was constantly fighting anti-social behavior, criminality, poor education and unemployment”, Simone says.
She recounts particularly bad times and often experienced events that frightened her and her neighbours. Despite all of that she remembers Southill as a place that boasted an exceptional community spirit.
“We looked out for one another”, she says. “We never wanted for anything. Neighbours were there for one another. Everybody’s door was open and deep friendships were made”.
In her early 20s, Simone was a single parent rearing twins. She found herself in a difficult position.
“I loved my kids but I was very young. In terms of a career I felt I had hit a brick wall. I didn’t know who I was as a person let alone who I might become. I couldn’t see the wood from the trees and thought that my potential as an individual had come to an end”
It was no easy task, but I faced the challenge and now speaks of her two 15-year-olds in the proudest of terms.
Simone’s dad was a powerlifter and ran a power lifting club in Southill. She describes a man who was constantly helping people and fighting to keep them on the straight and narrow.
“He exuded such a deep sense of community, and passed on to me the desire to something similar. With the help of Tait House, I am so proud to say I do that to this day”, Simone says.
“I was brought up to recognise that good parenting and the promotion of a strong community spirit are one of the most important factors in helping our young people to overcome any obstacles they might face at an early age”.
Simone acknowledges the fact that issues such as depression, drug or alcohol abuse are extremely prevalent, not just in Southill but in every Irish community today. She recognizes how easy it is to go down the wrong path.
“I was lucky to have been brought up by a supportive family and a Dad who was strong and driven by a sense of community spirit”, she says.
There is a new optimism emerging in Southill these days but there is little doubt that so much is still to be done. Simone is firm in her belief that an organization such as Tait House is a vital one to help build a strong community.
“The opportunities that Tait offers the community are endless. I have been blessed to have had the opportunity of working on so many different projects since I first walked in the door”
“The support and mentorship available within the walls Tait House are second to none. You never feel alone. The opportunities to push yourself and to learn new skills are yours for the taking”.
Tait House only asks for one thing in return- enthusiasm. If you bring a sense of willingness to learn, a desire to play your part and an openness to new challenges then you will be rewarded every day you spend in the magnificent facilities and grounds.
Simone has had a varied and diverse training since her early days in Tait House, experiences that have led to her taking on a number of challenging roles.
“The first course I took was a receptionist course which played a huge role in boosting my self-confidence. I then had the opportunity of working in the accounts department. This was an example of me being encouraged to work on a whole new skillset, enabling me to learn so much in terms of understanding the financial side of running a business. I then successfully applied for the role of Community Officer which involved the management of community estate maintenance, resident’s advocacy, Tidy Towns committee development and so forth”.
Her previous roles have included acting as PA to the CEO of Tait House. She also worked as a community officer for 2 years and worked on the likes of developing the O’Malley/Keyes Park Going for Gold entry (which came second overall in the competition), as well as developing the Tidy Towns initiative there.
“I sometimes reflect on a time in my life when I was a single mum, sitting at home feeling that I had completely lost myself. The idea of attending a ‘meeting’ would have been a massive challenge for me”, Simone says.
“At times I struggle to believe that the person I am today is someone now fully comfortable in boardroom scenarios; experienced in positions of leadership; and advocating on behalf of others”.
Simone notes the element of community employment and training that are offered by Tait House. But she believes the most important aspect of what the space does is enabling people to recognize their own self-worth.
“We are constantly welcoming people who have found themselves in long-term unemployment or have taken the wrong route in life for whatever reason. They are now trying to rebuild their lives. Tait House supports these types of people. It provides a multitude of opportunities for people from all walks of life”, she notes.
The range of services offered under the Tait House umbrella are almost endless – counselling, upskilling, training, community enterprise, childcare, jobs clubs, legal advice, community classes. career guidance. The list continues to grow.
“I defy anyone to identify some part of their life that Tait House can’t help with”.
“Tait House encourages the people it welcomes to constantly better themselves and to participate. We inspire our people to break out of their comfort zone and to challenge themselves to excel. We strive to grow those we work with both as individuals and in terms of employability”.
Simone now works as Food Service Manager after ‘falling’ into the role when the team at Tait House recognized the need to revitalise their food offering.
“I suppose you could say I volunteered myself. I love taking on new challenges and felt this was the right move for me. I had no background in the food services industry so I really was going into the deep end but I haven’t looked back. Every bit of the previous training I received over my years at Tait House stood to me”, she notes.
The food services side of the Tait House Community Enterprise involves the day to day running of a fully equipped café as well as the commercial kitchen located on site. The food services aspect caters for 130 children who attend the Tait childcare services, providing outside catering to schools and a dedicated meals on wheels service. The team are in the process of developing a corporate catering aspect of the business.
Simone says that the biggest learning she has taken from Tait House is to grab every opportunity that comes your way. She advises people not to be scared of a new challenge; never to limit yourself with set boundaries; always be open to developing your own personal creativity and to always seek the guidance of good mentors.
So what is her advice to anyone who may find themselves in the position she was all those years ago?
“Don’t just sit at home feeling that this is it. Just come and visit us. Trust us. No major decisions need to be made. You will never regret the opportunities that Tait House can offer you. Take a small step and see what the future holds”.