Oliver Keegan is the new President of St Mel’s Conference St Vincent de Paul in Longford town.
He takes over the reigns from Cyril Hussey who was in the role for a number of years.
The former agri-science and biology teacher for 40 years at Moyne Community School knows he has big shoes to fill, but the support that SVP provides to those in need and in turn the support that is provided by the community in Longford town to SVP is a phenomenon that he and many others find very rewarding.
Meanwhile, it has been a busy year for the local SVP branch and as Oliver remarked, “it seems to get more and more busy as the years go by; more and more people are looking for help and at Christmas time it becomes exceptionally busy”.
The organisation has a new helpline number and when people ring , they are required to leave a message and their call will be returned by a committee member.
“We have a helpline, people ring that; we make home visits so we can better understand people’s needs and everybody is assessed so that we can spend our money wisely,” said Oliver, before pointing out that demands change depending on the time of year.
“People’s needs vary depending on the time of year,” he continued, before pointing to the fact that during the summer months people need food vouchers, while in winter time they need food vouchers and fuel vouchers as well.
“Others then have educational needs that would include help with books, uniforms, fees and transport costs, and while we do have limited means we help as many people as we can and in the best way we can.”
St Mel’s Conference SVP has spent close to €170,000 on meeting the demands of the people of Longford town this year.
That money is thanks to the generosity of the numerous voluntary groups, business people and others who support the local SVP’s cause with every passing year.
The organisation also holds a church gate collection every Sunday at St Mel’s Cathedral.
“We collect several hundred Euro every Sunday and that is very significant to our funds,” added Oliver.
“Then of course coming up to Christmas a lot of companies and organisations are very generous to us - that is mainly where our money comes from.”
Every year the national SVP office runs its pre Christmas campaign in the run up to the festive season.
It asks everyone to make a donation to the cause, no matter how big or small it may be.
Locally, and around this time of year, clubs and societies like the Lions Club hold food appeals where they encourage shoppers to place some perishable goods in the collection box.
This is turn is handed over to organisations like SVP where the good will be used in its many Christmas food hampers.
Hundreds of these hampers are distributed every Christmas to those in need in and around Longford town.
“Only last week the Lions Club collected €1,400 and food from one of their appeals and they handed everything over to SVP; we were delighted and it is a very generous thing to do for us,” said Oliver, before adding that Supervalu in Longford town was also running a food appeal for SVP.
“All of this is a huge help to us as is the Abbott shoebox appeal, which is organised every year in conjunction with St Mel’s Conference SVP.
“It has become a very successful and valuable initiative and is a huge effort on the part of Abbotts.
“It is very much appreciated.”
The new SVP president also says that there are people in Longford town whose resources are limited and in many cases they have become isolated. It is these people that the organisation keeps a close eye on.
SVP meetings take place every Tuesday night at 7pm in the Family Centre in Longford town. New members are always welcome.