It’s the second time around for Dundalk St. Vincent de Paul Society’s (SVP) new chief. Gerry O’Keeffe, who has recently taken up the position of SVP Area President, also filled the role from 2000 to 2006. He has been SVP Area Treasurer from 2006 until December 2013.
The now retired bank official joined the town’s St. Oliver Plunkett Conference in 2000 and, as a seasoned community worker with Dundalk Lions Club, was immediately appointed Area President.
He now succeeds former area president Liam O’Reilly, the SVP North-East Regional Council’s new President.
Looking ahead, Gerry is especially targeting membership, education and fundraising as particular spheres for attention.
“Fundraising has always been a priority for Dundalk SVP and they have succeeded excellently in that in recent years”, said Gerry. “The area council has also traditionally focussed on education - primary, secondary and third level - and I will be working to ensure that that support is maintained.”
With regard to the recruitment of new volunteers, he is concerned that in the past many of these have left the local society within a relatively short time of joining. He wants to arrest this trend by “earmarking” the 40 to 50 year age group.
“While young and old are welcome, in my opinion we are unlikely to get the 20 or 30-year-olds, because at that stage they are usually caught up in sports or other interests”, Gerry said. “In addition, they may be married with children, so family matters occupy a great deal of their time.
“However, if we attract people a little bit older they are likely to have more opportunities to devote a few hours to organisations like the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Usually, their sports careers and other activities will then have ended and their responsibilities to family will not be as heavy.”
He is aware that renewal is very important for conferences, and says that the local SVP will be devising a policy to attract and retain new members.
He emphasises that these must be allowed to be “active” from the start.
He feels that members should be encouraged to operate in areas that suit their particular talents – whether it be fundraising, promotion or organising Christmas hampers.
“We must open up things a bit more to keep them interested,” he added.