SVP volunteers brace themselves for 2019

By Aideen O'Flaherty

ST Vincent de Paul (SVP) volunteers are bracing themselves for a busy year ahead, after a “hugely busy” Christmas season which saw over 200 people go to their Cherry Orchard food bank – which usually facilitates 150 people at most.

Nationally, SVP saw an 11 per cent increase in calls to the charity compared to five years ago and it is predicted that there will be “no slow-down” of calls to the charity during the course of 2019.

Cherry Orchard02

Volunteer Barbara Corry helping out at the Cherry Orchard food bank last year

Marie Cronin, the SVP area president for Clondalkin and Ballyfermot, told The Echo: “It’s been hugely busy.

“Our food bank in Cherry Orchard can cope with 150 people, but over 200 people showed up at our last food bank before Christmas, on December 14.

“While we don’t turn people away, we usually have to assess people before we put them on our books, but people weren’t going to show up [for the first time] two weeks before Christmas unless they were desperate.

“We were just giving out basics, like pasta and cans of tuna, not necessarily stuff that you would want during Christmas unless you were desperate.”

For the first time, Ms Cronin also had to call on other members of the community, including home-school liaison officers from local schools and gardai, to assist with handing out food vouchers to people in the area, such was the demand for their services.

“The gardai in Ronanstown delivered a lot of vouchers,” explained Ms Cronin, “because we didn’t have the manpower on the ground that was needed to deal with the number of people who needed help from us.

“We also asked home-school liaison officers in local schools to give vouchers to families in need – we’ve never had to do that before, but it was physically not possible for us to get to everyone who needed help.”

The public were also a huge help to the charity, with Ms Cronin saying that “the public have been extremely good to us, the amount of food and toys that were donated to us was fantastic – we can’t thank them enough.”

The leftover toys have been  kept by SVP, so that they can be used as birthday gifts for the children of families that receive support from SVP.

SVP also helped to bring some Christmas magic to families in Ballyfermot where, in conjunction with Dublin City Council, they held a free festive event where Santa came to visit and gave presents to all of the children.

The event was so successful that there are plans for it to happen again next Christmas, but the charity is looking ahead to a daunting few months in the immediate future, where they expect more people will reach out to them for assistance.

Ms Cronin said: “It’s getting more and more severe, and we would definitely value anyone joining us – even if they want to do paper work, keep the minutes of meetings or do accounts, it would help to relieve us so we can visit more people who need our help.”

If people would like to become an SVP volunteer, they “don’t have to go visit the families if they don’t want to,” according to Ms Cronin, “they could do church collections, or they could do accounts and we can train them on our own IT systems.”

People seeking assistance or who wish to volunteer for the charity can call SVP’s Dublin office on 01 855 0022 and they can direct you to your local office, while parish offices can also direct people to their local conference of SVP.

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