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Calls for help at record levels this Christmas

By Ann Marie Foley - 16 December, 2015

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Brendan O’Carroll, the actor who portrays the much loved TV character ‘Mrs Brown’, has donated turkey and ham for 2,500 families in Dublin this year.

The comedian and creator of the successful ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’ donated vouchers for turkey and ham to the East Region of the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) for distribution to families supported by the Society.

“The continuous generosity of Brendan is unbelievable. It is an imaginative yet practical way to help many families in need,” said Liam Casey, President of the SVP East Region.

“Our volunteers know that the families who benefit from his generosity not only appreciate his action but take extra pleasure in knowing that it comes with the compliments of Mrs Brown, an iconic and internationally famous Dublin mother.”

The SVP in the East Region stated that calls for support are at record levels, despite the improvement in some sections of the economy.

This year, the SVP region will have dealt with over 65,000 calls for help by the end of the year.

“With such a level of calls our resources are fully stretched and we welcome all donations, whether financial or in the form of goods which can either be distributed directly to those in need or sold in our Vincent shops. The Irish public have been extremely generous to the SVP in the past and we are dependent on them to continue their support into the future,” Liam Casey said.

For a number of years now Brendan O’Carroll has made a substantial donation to SVP to provide Christmas dinners.

He often kept his donations to charity anonymous but in 2013, following a decline in money given to charities in the wake of the Central Remedial Clinic scandal, he went public.

That year he gave donations of €125,000 each to the St Vincent de Paul and Irish Autism Action from ticket sales of his Mrs Brown’s Boys O2 production.

He also personally donated €100,000 to the St Vincent de Paul. He went public to show his continued support for the charities in a bid to encourage others to continue their support.

Brendan O’Carroll has also spoken of his early childhood when what he called “kind uncles, Vincent and Paul” came to visit and ensure his mother had enough fuel and food.

He said that the support he gives the St Vincent de Paul today is nothing compared to the difference they made to his family during his childhood.

He told RTE Radio 1 News that his donation to the SVP for Christmas involved giving people vouchers so they could go and shop for themselves. He said he wants to give a “leg up” and to enable people rather than just offer a hand out.

svp 553162_461218943940058_338034908_nEarlier in December, the SVP made an urgent appeal for public donations to help it continue to meet the ever increasing demand for support.

“This year we are concerned about being able to fully meet the need we face in communities across the country. The level of calls for assistance we are receiving is at an alarming level despite recent economic improvements,” Kieran Stafford, SVP National Vice-President said on 10 December.

In November alone, the Society’s East Region (Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow) received approximately 10,000 calls, which was an increase of 7% on the same period last year. Similar trends were being experienced in different parts of the country.

There was a national collection on 13 December and following the annual appeal donations of toys and food were very good and very much appreciated.

However, the SVP appealed for further online and financial donations to ensure that the Society has the resources to meet the increasing demand this Christmas and into 2016.

“December, January and February are very difficult months for many families as large utility and energy bills become due,” he said.

He also said that while essentials such as food, energy bills and education are still crucial areas where support is sought; sadly the number of people who are calling because of rent increases is very large and is rising.

According to Mr Stafford, most of those who seek SVP help are struggling week in and week out on a basic minimum income, either from state payments or from low-paid employment.

SVP now spends an average of €40m per year in direct assistance which is primarily on food, energy, education, clothing and furniture as well as toys at Christmas.

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