Mill Lane was originally set up as the Stewarts Care horticultural unit but over the years it has become far more than that. Not only does Mill Lane provide training in vocational and life skills, it grows produce for other Stewarts Care facilities like Café Kaizen and The Old Beehive. It has a drama program that teaches valuable communication and performance skills, its own kiln which allows services users to produce their own pottery, and if all of that wasn’t enough, they work closely with the local Palmerstown community on local projects and fundraising.
Mick Kelly has been working at Mill Lane since 2012, he originally trained as a gardener in the National Botanical Gardens and although he’s been working directly with service users at Mill Lane since 2012, he’s been with Stewarts Care since 1982 and he started out as a groundskeeper.
When he first started, Mick rarely ever worked with the service users but as time went on, many of them would take an interest in what the groundskeeping team was doing and the groundskeepers would let them help with small tasks and teach them about what they were doing.
Mick recently shared some of his favourite stories from his time at Mill Lane. One year, everyone, service users and staff, sowed a sunflower seed and were tasked with taking care of it while it grew. Everyone involved quickly became very protective of their own sunflower and eventually they had a wall of fully-grown sunflowers, one of which was over 16 feet (4.9 metres) tall!
Mick also recalls a very momentous occasion when one of the Mill Lane service users, David, won a major prize for his artwork. His painting was on the cover of a ‘National Federation of Voluntary Bodies’ report and he was presented with an award by then Minister Finian McGrath with his family and staff in attendance. David was over the moon with his achievement and he hugged everyone at the presentation!
The drama program at Mill Lane grew over the years as more service users expressed an interest in acting and performance every year. A big highlight of the year is the Christmas play and Mick and the service users have put on some colourful productions including ‘Love/Hate in Bethlehem’, ‘Mrs Brown in Fairyland’ and ‘Fools and Horses in Stewarts’. Family and friends are invited every year and Mick says everyone has a good laugh! In 2019, the staff at Mill Lane decided to make teaching drama a more formal endeavour and are currently seeking funding to rent a space in Palmerstown.
If you ask him why he’s been with Stewarts Care for so long, Mick will always tell you how much he loves the work and the deep connections he’s made with the service users over the years. He often jokes that he’s not looking forward to retirement.