After a long winter, the sun shone on the North Antrim Coast.
Although that was not the reason for the party at Greenlight Gateway, you would be forgiven for thinking that many who flocked to the Ballycastle Centre over a busy Easter Weekend were happy just to see a glimpse of Spring and a sky free from clouds…if only for 48 hours.
The third Birthday marked the rapid growth and development of this wonderful Garden Centre and Coffee Shop, and thriving social enterprise and celebrated the vision and the hard work of the many volunteers, young people and adults who have been a part of the amazing transformation of this unused land.
It was a special treat that not only the Easter Bunny along with Mickey and Minnie Mouse were there for the weekend, but that the wonderful Casey’s Creatures from Portrush had brought along some amazing animals to meet and touch.
Casey himself was blown away by the huge numbers of visitors and really loved telling the many hundreds who were there all about his meerkats, reptiles and wonderful and aptly-named skunk, called Guinness.
He said: “Greenlight is such a welcoming and open place for the adults, children and young people with learning disabilities who are at the heart of it. I have been thrilled to bring some of the creatures along to the Gap Projects and was only delighted to be here for Easter.
“There is nothing like it anywhere else, and the people of North Antrim should be so proud of all that has been achieved. I’ll certainly be back!!”
Lorraine McCook, manager of the Garden Centre, was on hand through the day to give expert advice. She even found time to host a demonstration on planting and filling hanging baskets which had a great response from the many who attended.
Noel Henry, Greenlight’s new Trainer/Chef was also in big demand as he showed off his cupcake icing skills.
In the end, Mr Whippy could not have kept up with the demand, and he was almost glad to get back into the heat of the kitchen after a great display helped by Roisin Toner, the pride of Greenlight.
Roisin Toner was one of the most popular people at the Garden Centre as she shared the tasty nibbles and samples of the new freshly baked loaves, breads and tray-bakes that were on sale.
What many may not have realised was that Roisin by the end of the week would be winging her way to London, to compete in the National Culinary Ability Awards at the Excel Arena.
She will have the pleasure and pressure of cooking a meal for more than 50 of the top chefs in the world, and on the following day, preparing her special dish of cured Salmon, quinoa and Tampura Battered Dulse.
She will be going for Gold in the same arena that Katy Taylor won Gold at London 2012, and whatever the outcome she is a winner for simply being there. We will let you know how she gets on next week.
Lorraine is also quick to tell us that we can visit them anytime to see a wonderful stock of plants, trees and shrubs as well as beautiful pots and containers.
With a team of experienced and friendly staff they can advise on all your gardening matters and also fill baskets, planters and containers freshly made to order.
All the beautiful plants are grown from seeds and plugs planted by the young trainees and this alone makes them very special.
“Now is the time to bring your own containers, hanging baskets etc. to be filled and collected at the end of May, full of summer colour”, Lorraine reminded us.
But don’t think it is all just hard work here….There will be fun, food and more than a few surprises through the months of May and June and The Country Kitchen will be serving a range of fresh meals, snacks and treats and taking bookings for parties and events right through the summer and you can contact Greenlight on 02820761110 or find them on Facebook.
Frank Nealis, one of the Greenlight Gateway team, addeds: “Celebration days like this are very important to us. We are a community organisation and social business, so we are always delighted to welcome all the community here.
“We really depend on the support of local families and individuals, and it is so important for our young adults and trainees to be able to work with and for the wider public.
“It is special for us to see the sense of pride and achievement that each individual has in what they do here at Greenlight. It does make all the hard work worthwhile.
“It is also remarkable that over £200 was raised by our members to support the Make a Wish Foundation in a special raffle on Easter Monday.
“We also hope to have a ‘Day of Heroes’ at the end of July to support ‘Make a Wish, but there are many weekends between now and then.
“Finally, in answer to one man’s question at Easter, Yes, we are open every day for anyone to come and visit. You don’t have to wait for special occasions like this to call in.”