It’s the time of year again when St Vincent de Paul (SVP) reaches out to the community for assistance with its Christmas appeal.
St Mel’s Conference in Longford town reports a three fold increase in the demands on its services this year and over in Granard, the new visitation conference there has also been inundated with requests for help with fuel bills and food.
“We were busier this year, more than we have ever been,” secretary, Longford town SVP, Kathleen Mimnagh told the Leader.
“There are an awful lot of people who are genuinely cold, because fuel poverty has increased two fold. In fact, when you visit some homes in Longford, you can actually feel the cold. There are a lot of very cold people in the county.”
However it is the demand for food that is most pressing at the moment.
“The demand for food is exceeding all expectation this year,” added Ms Mimnagh. “There is a huge need for food, particularly in homes where there are children and older people, and there are a lot of people who are dependent on the Abbott’s Box this year to provide toys on Christmas Day.”
Each year, staff at Abbott Diagnostics fill shoe boxes full of presents for little boys and girls, and subsequently donate the gifts to the local SVP. Members say this year, instead of adding the Abbott’s gifts to other small affordable items, those gifts will be what will make many children’s Christmas Day.
Another problem the organisation faces is the mounting fuel bills that have at this stage, become synonymous with storage heating.
“People have been caught with storage heaters very badly, and they had exorbitant ESB bills now; in fact some people are afraid to put on the heaters now because of the cost of running them,” Ms Mimnagh continued.
“There are others who are still paying bills for heating 12 months ago, and currently living in the cold.
“Home visits in 2013 definitely tripled and when you visit a home, you get a real sense of how genuinely difficult things are for some people at the moment.”
Local SVP conferences are appealing to the public once again to give generously to this year’s appeal, which runs nationally for the next few weeks. “This year we need more of the basics - forget about luxurious items, we need perishable goods and food products,” said Ms Mimnagh.
“Food products are now what is really required so that we can distribute food to hungry people,”she concluded.