TWICE as many people are asking St Vincent de Paul (SVP) for assistance this year as did three years ago, while the society’s income has fallen by a quarter.
Also, many people who used to help SVP at Christmas are now asking them for assistance, as falling salaries and State-imposed charges hit home.
Clare area SVP president, John Cullinane, is appealing for last-minute public and corporate support in the run-up to Christmas.
“We have our Christmas collection this weekend in Ennis. The church gate collection will get underway at vigil masses on Saturday and at all masses in Ennis churches on Sunday. We need it more than ever this year,” he said this week.
“In the past three years, requests for our assistance have gone up by 104% and our income has gone down by about 25%. We have a lot of repeat people who make requests of us – probably 75% of our requests are from the same people – and nowadays we also have a lot more requests from people who are in employment.”
In the Celtic Tiger years, with more employment, it was always somebody on social welfare who the society would be assisting, Mr Cullinane said.
“Now, with salaries being reduced and all the different measures that have been brought in, even people that are working are looking for assistance from us,” he added.
“The demand is unpredictable but we always give out a lot more around this time of the year, particularly food.
“We get a lot of food in from the schools and other people donate and deliver food to us and toys and we give all those out over the next few weeks. That’s in addition to what we would normally give people,” the SVP president said.
The society has already begun distributing what they can to the needy ahead of Christmas. On Monday night, one of the four Ennis and surroundings visitation conferences met with the members setting out their lists for oil and coal supplies to be delivered to families this week.
“We also give out additional vouchers from Dunnes Stores or Aldi for food and they were all given out on Monday night for distribution. In vouchers alone, we possibly gave out €10,000 from that one conference in Ennis. We give €50 or €100 depending on the size of the family, to every family we visit during the year.
“From this Friday, there’s lots of toys coming from the schools in Ennis. Toys and food, they’ll be all going out during next week. It’s the week before Christmas next week and we would ask people to be as generous as possible,” Mr Cullinane said.
“We know very well that a lot of people are struggling. People who were the most generous before are receiving assistance from us now,” he added.
A lot of poorer families and the elderly, in particular, are feeling the cumulative effect of the economic crash, losing electricity units, telephone, fuel and the Christmas bonus, which is partly returning this year, while others have seen their household incomes falling drastically.
Donations of money, toys and non-perishable foods will be welcomed at the SVP office in 84 Parnell Street, Ennis or can be handed into the parish office at the Cathedral.
In addition to making donations directly, there are an array of options to support the SVP at www.svp.ie, including a virtual gift store, giving tree and food appeal opportunities.