By Susan Gately - 09 December, 2017
The national church gate collection for the Society of St Vincent de Paul takes place this weekend outside churches the length and breadth of Ireland. According to the PRO for the Society, in spite of the economic improvement in the country this year, calls for help are up.
“Calls for help in general appear to be up this year. A lot of people are still struggling on a day-to-day basis,” Jim Walsh told CatholicIreland. “The real problem is that when you are just about covering your weekly expenses, when anything crops up that is not expected you don’t have the opportunity to save and you don’t have spare cash. That’s when the society is able to help people.”
Mr Walsh said that the calls for help were up between 3 and 10 per cent, region to region. In the East region, which comprises Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare, “calls are up probably close to 10 per cent,” he said.
While the Society appeals at Christmas in particular for money, toys and food, this year they have asked the public to remember teenagers if they are making donations of toys.
There is a feeling, said Mr Walsh, that young children are well catered for. “Lots of toys are donated for them – cuddly toys and the like, and very often the teenagers are forgotten,” he said.
Cinema or record shop vouchers are very welcome, or vouchers for other shops or activities that teenagers would engage in. He recalled one member telling him of how they had given a teenager a football jersey and the boy’s mother said the jersey meant the world to him – he wouldn’t take it off for a long time. “It is things like that, and that is why the call is for something that will help teenagers, or donations.”
In the final instance, however, donations of money are the best thing to give, said Mr Walsh. “We ask people in the first instance to go online at www.svp.ie where there’s the opportunity to donate and to select a region.”
The ethos of the Society, he explained, is to “keep it local”. The money collected at the church gate collections stays with that local conference. The main reason is to give the local volunteers the flexibility to provide the necessary help for people who come to them.”
Asked if there were ‘black spots’ where there were particularly high numbers of calls for help, Mr Walsh said it was difficult to say, because even within a region you might find the calls up. “Certainly, there is an increase in appeals for help in rural areas as well as urban.”
The St Vincent de Paul Society spokesman said that people are still generous. “There is always great support for the Society and over the years that hasn’t diminished.”