A helping hand in a time of ‘Impossible Choices’

The Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) Annual Appeal launched in November will be one of the most difficult in the Society’s 177-year history: According to the Society, calls for help this year will be at their highest level ever and could reach almost 200,000 by the end of December.

Christmas will be different for everyone this year but the theme ‘Impossible Choices’ reflects the really hard situation families on low incomes face in the lead up to Christmas. With massive increases in energy costs and living expenses, the situation for those already struggling financially has worsened.

The Clonakilty branch The Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) has been working with people in need in the local community for 160 years and the work done by the organisation and its members has never been so important as now, when people are under such severe financial and psychological stress due to the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

If you are struggling to keep a roof over your head, how do you choose between a decent dinner and a warm house? What do you sacrifice to buy your children those precious gifts after such a tough year?

St Vincent De Paul Clonakilty helped nearly 300 familiesto keep their heads above water last year, to the tune of €130K. Poverty is never easy to confront and yet, every Christmas, it is impossible to ignore. Never has it been so important as in 2021 when we are still living with the pandemic, and when people are on their knees wondering what do to next, how to pay the next bill or fill the schoolbag with books and how they will feed their family every night. 

“It can be very difficult for people to make that initial contact with the Society, especially if they haven’t been in a position where they have needed to ask for help before,” said Agnes Cahill, President of the Clonakilty branch of St Vincent de Paul. “But based on the need of the individual or family, assistance is given in a non-judgmental spirit of compassion,” she emphasises.

Our members are very accessible, and our door is always open to anyone,” adds Noel Lawlor, the organisation’s education officer.

The Society of St Vincent de Paul provides practical financial support and advice, assistance with grants for fuel and a short-term safety net for those who fall outside the welfare state. It also provides social housing to the over-50s at affordable prices: There are 24 housing units in three locations around Clonakilty town.

There is also an Education Grant scheme provided by the Society to which people can apply for financial assistance to pursue third level education. Anyone is welcome to apply. “We have a bursary available to third level students,” explains Noel. “Once you qualify for the grant, it’s made available for the duration of the student’s course.”

Most of the students who qualify for the Education Grant would already have been accepted for the Susi scheme. However, as Agnes points out, “the Susi grants would probably not stretch to cover accommodation costs if the students are attending third level colleges far from home.

“The bursary is there to cover whatever they need, whether that’s travel costs or course materials,” she says. “It’s fantastic to see the recipients of these grants progressing and achieving their goals in life,” says Noel. “Many of them now in fact support the Society themselves.”

Last year alone, the Clonakilty branch invested over €50,000 in supporting more than 30 students attending college and university.

This type of investment is only possible as a result of the generous donations and fundraising efforts of the public throughout the year and in particular during the annual appeal in December. The need for donations this year has been exacerbated by the fact that due to COVID there may not be any SVP church gate collections due to the Pandemic. Instead, anyone who wants to make a donation in person can do so on Saturday, December 11.at any of the locations listed below.

“Everyone deserves a helping hand when needed and all help is given with the utmost respect to the privacy of the individual or family,” says Agnes.

‘We’d like people to approach us as if they were approaching a family member who is in a position to help them financially through a difficult period,” says Noel. In what has been a difficult year for charities all over Ireland, Agnes and Noel would like to assure people that any monies donated to the local branch of St Vincent de Paul are distributed in the immediate locality.

If you wish to make a donation to Clonakilty St Vincent de Paul you can do so through any of the following:

 1. On the Clonakilty Saint Vincent de Paul Fundraising Pagesvp.ie/stannesclonakilty. 

2. Call the following number ROI 0818176 176. It is important that you specify that your donation is to go to SVP Clonakilty

3. Donate on the local fundraising day on December 11 at any one of the following locations: Astna Square Clonakilty; Timaleague Church;
Barryroe Co-Op;
Clogagh Church;
Lisavaird Co-0p;
Barryroe Church;
Clonakilty Church;
Courtmacsherry Church.

4. Contact a member of the conference. All donations greatly appreciated. 

To contact the Clonakilty branch directly for assistance call 087 3769935. The numbers for the other branches in West Cork are as follows: 
Bandon 086 8255092;
Bantry 086 1710559;
Dunmanway 086 3458037: Skibbereen 0879182698.

WCP Staff

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