St Vincent de Paul Dundalk make annual appeal
This Christmas, as in the previous 164 years, the St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) in Dundalk will be appealing to the general public for donations not just to meet the needs of families and individuals during the festive season but to fund the many demands that the Society is asked to respond to throughout the year.
Christmas is of course a special time for all, especially families, and places great demands on parents, the elderly and the infirm. The SVP try to respond to that demand as best we can and with the help of local charitable organisations such as the Rotary and Lions Clubs last year, between us, we distributed 963 food parcels in the North Louth area.
Donations of food, toys and other items contained in those parcels came from all sectors of our community, with schools and firms particularly generous, and distribution was undertaken by members of the Lions and Rotary clubs, together with volunteers within the various Conferences that comprise the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the area.
In total there are eleven Conferences, with over 150 members, and they cover an area from Omeath stretching through the Cooley peninsula to Dundalk, where six of the Conferences operate, and into rural areas such Knockbridge, Kilkerley. Dromiskin and Faughart.
Last year those eleven Conferences spent €269,000 between them, all of which was raised through our monthly church gate collections, our annual appeal, generous donations from firms and individuals and the revenue generated through our three shops, the third of which opened recently on the Castletown Road to serve the needs of the community in that area.
The €269,000 was spent mainly on supporting families and individuals with food vouchers, helping with utility bills, medical expenses, educational grants, and in direct funding to all of our secondary schools to help disadvantaged students with essential needs.
The Society places great emphasis on educational support for we believe that it is not enough to provide short term material support but to help those we serve to achieve self sufficiency in the long term for the self worth that it provides.
Every euro distributed by the Society is only allocated after careful consideration and always after a visitation by two volunteers to the home of the recipient for the Society at national and local level is rightly imposing more and more rigorous governance on our operations to ensure that administration costs are kept to the lowest of any charity and to ensure that the money we receive gets to where it is most needed.
On a weekly basis we encounter cases of real hardship and meet individuals and families who, through no fault of their own, have no alternative but to seek our help.
Lone parents, we find, regularly seek our help.
A mother trying to bring up a teenage child on her own, after her partner abandons his responsibility to live in another country. Or the parent seeking to return to education but unable to get State support because of anomalies in the system.
The Society members, all volunteers who give freely of their time and experience, apply understanding and sensitivity to all seeking help, and they are constantly reminded of the teaching of their founder Blessed Frederic Ozanam when he said "that we must do without hesitation whatever lies in our hands".
The work that the Society members undertake on behalf of the people of this area would not be possible without the generous support of very many people, and last Christmas, as Area President, I was astonished and greatly humbled by the response that I encountered from individuals, schools and firms.
The sense of pride in the community in which we all live and work was obvious the me among volunteers as we saw the volume of food donated last year by individuals, schools and firms, and the generosity of townspeople is an inspiration to all of us who work in the Society to do the very best we can for those seeking our help.