FOR some it’s the most wonderful time of the year, but for other it’s just the most expensive and stressful.
Christmas is when the Mary Immaculate Conference of St Vincent De Paul in Shannon is at its busiest, helping the many local people who struggle to meet the financial demands of the season.
Mary Corry has been involved in it for the last 25 years and she says that 2020 has posed very difficult challenges. “We’re not really doing visits at the moment, we just send vouchers to people. It’s much more difficult because we don’t meet to discuss cases or that sort of thing. Yet people’s needs remain the same, they’ve increased a bit I’d say. “
We haven’t been able to have a collection which is a huge drawback for us. We won’t be able to get food, we used to get an amount of food from the schools and the Giving Trees (positioned at local churches). We haven’’t been able to do bag packings at Dunnes Stores. These are all huge losses to us.”
Inevitably, with fewer donations being made and less opportunities to fundraise, there can’t be as much available to those who the charity supports. “At the moment we’re okay, but down the road we won’t have. If the finance isn’t coming in it can’t go out.”
The next few weeks will be quite hectic for the local conference, which has fewer than ten members, and the way that support is delivered this Christmas has had to change. “We won’t be visiting families and we won’t be doing hampers. Those were big things for us up until Christmas, but we won’t be doing it this year, we’ll send vouchers in the post.”
Mary says there were a lot of benefits to actually calling to people’s homes, something that has been lost now. “People like the visit as well, it’s easier to see what people really need when you visit them. If you just make a phone call it’s much more difficult I think.
“At the moment I would find it frustrating, there might be new people coming in and you’d really need to visit to see the situation and we can’t do that.
“I would find it a bit more frustrating now and it will be up until Christmas, because of not being able to visit. But that’s the way things are, it’s nobody’s fault.”
She says that there is a lot of satisfaction involved in volunteering with St Vincent De Paul. “You bring a lot of joy to people. Some people you help and it’s a once-off and that’s great. You help them over the difficulty that they’re in, and they don’t need to contact you again and I think that’s great.
“We help people with education and to me that’s the only way to get people out of a rut, to stop people having to depend on organisations like St Vincent De Paul, I really think education is the way forward.
“Even with children, when you come with toys at Christmas, you see the joy in their faces so you do get a lot back from it. It’s a way of giving back to society, if you’re not in a position of need it’s good to be able to help people who are in need.”
St Vincent De Paul exists to fight poverty in all its forms, through practical assistance to people in need. It offers personal assistance that is non-judgemental and based on the needs of the individual or family.