A PORTLAOISE resident who was nominated for an unsung hero award in 2017 has raised more than €4,000 over the past two years for his beloved charity Bóthar, which provides Irish livestock to families in third world countries.
Gerry Furlong, who is originally from Wexford, has lived in Rockdale on the Mountrath Road for almost 20 years.
He can be seen regularly wearing his Bóthar high-visibility coat accompanied by his well-trained dogs Bobbie and Coco as he embarks on Gerry’s Litter Drive.
He litter picks discarded rubbish from the top of Fr Brown Avenue to the bottom on both sides of the road, then onto the Abbeyleix Road to Top Square and back up the Mountrath Road until he reaches his home.
Bobbie the brown Labrador and Coco the Yorkshire Westie-cross are so well trained that Gerry can cross the busy road at any time to pick litter on the opposite side and the dogs will stay put.
The entire four-kilometre circuit takes over two hours to complete, but it can sometimes take longer if matches have been played in O’Moore Park.
Gerry takes up the story.
“I am an avid walker and I was walking the dogs along my usual circuit the day after St Patrick’s Day 2016 after a major football match had been played in O’Moore Park. Volunteers from the Tidy Towns had removed about ten tons of rubbish from around the town, but the road was so dirty that they couldn’t get it all.
“I noticed how hard it was going to be to get all the litter while on my walks, especially the smaller bits and pieces. It took me three weeks to have it completely clean and then I decided that I might as well stay doing it in the long evenings or at weekends when I’m not in work.
“A good friend of mine jokingly asked if I was doing community service, having seen me several times picking litter. He suggested that I start collecting for a charity, so I went around the businesses that have road frontage on my route asking for support and I got a very positive reaction from several of them.
“I then approached Bóthar and asked if I could use them as my chosen charity. They were delighted and they gave me leaflets with details on how to donate and then the money started rolling in.
“I chose Bóthar because I come from a farming background and a large family. Everything we ate growing up came from the farm. I understand the importance and sustainability of having farm animals and livestock and what it means to families and this is what Bóthar provides in third-world countries.
“Every family that gets a donation of an in-calf Irish dairy cow notices a huge difference to their lives, as it will give up to 20 litres of milk a day. For example, in Rwanda, the indigenous cow produces just one litre of milk a day. When the cow calves, it continues to provide milk once the calf has suckled. The cow can be inseminated again, as can the calf when it reaches maturity at between one and two years’ old. A cow can live for 20 years, so from the initial in-calf heifer that was donated, many families can benefit over the years. It’s fantastic.” he said.
Gerry has several different businesses along his route that allow him to use their bins, including Portlaoise Garda Station, but he is appealing to Laois County Council to provide several bins along his route, saying that when people are on their way to a match with bags of chips and minerals, there is nowhere for them to dispose of their rubbish, hence they discard it onto the footpaths and into ditches and it blows all over the place.
Above all, Gerry wants to thank everyone who continually supports him and donates to Bóthar on his behalf.
For those who wish to donate to Bóthar on his behalf, log onto www.bothar.ie using the keywords Gerry’s Litter Drive or phone Bóthar on 1850 829999. Bóthar collection boxes are at tills in several businesses along Gerry’s circuit.