Charities doing Trojan community work have always relied on an Irish public never found wanting when it came to generous donations, but the Covid-19 crisis has laid bare just how it can all evaporate in an instant.
With families and householders struggling under the strain of the pandemic, charities whose grasp extends into every facet of Irish life are fighting for their very existence.
One of the biggest annual fundraisers for cancer support groups and charities in Cork is now off. Cork's 96FM & C103 confirmed its 13th Giving for Living Radiothon, planned to take place at the end of May, has been cancelled.
The event has raised over €5.1m over the last 12 years with proceeds being distributed each year between five local charity partners - the Mercy Hospital Foundation; the CUH Charity; Marymount Hospice; Cork ARC Cancer Support House and Breakthrough Cancer Research.
Last year's event alone raised €440,451.
Kieran McGeary, the group station director of Cork’s 96FM & C103, said they pulled the plug reluctantly but there was no other option.
"A massive part of the fundraising effort each year is group coffee mornings. These clearly aren’t possible at the moment," he said.
Cope Foundation, which supports over 2,500 children and adults with an intellectual disability and/or autism in 69 locations all over Cork, is severely under the cosh.
Already €34m-plus in the hole annually for supporting its services, its fundraising drive has been curtailed.
A virtual coffee morning on Tuesday saw the community respond by donating €4 for each cuppa raised, but it will be a temporary respite.
Chief executive Sean Abbott said: “Our annual Flowers of Hope campaign, due to take place this month, has been cancelled, resulting in a loss of almost €40,000 in fundraising income – this is a huge knock to us.”
The Marie Keating Foundation has been forced to cancel all of its upcoming fundraisers, which has had an immediate impact on the cancer charity’s income.
As a result, it is making an urgent appeal for the public’s help as it faces an unprecedented situation with fundraising being curtailed and services stretched.
The cancer charity receives no government funding and relies heavily on its own - and third-party - events and campaigns to fund its lifesaving cancer prevention, awareness and support services.
Director of Fundraising Linda Keating said: “The Marie Keating Foundation is so reliant on our main source of income, namely our own events and the public getting behind us with fun runs, bake sales, sponsored cycles etc, that for all of these to be cancelled immediately with little notice is potentially devastating for us. We really do need the public’s help to help us continue to offer help to those we support who are now more vulnerable than ever.”
As part of the collective effort to halt the spread of Covid-19, a number of the Marie Keating Foundation nurses have been redeployed to work in the HSE in contact tracing and on helplines.
The Foundation is also adapting many of its face-to-face support services into online or webinar format to ensure that vulnerable patients do not feel alone during this challenging time.
“We took the difficult decision to suspend our monthly Positive Living patient support group meetings for women living with metastatic breast cancer, but this is a group that badly needs advice and support particularly during this time of uncertainty and isolation. Our nurses are continuing to hold these meetings with members online and are in daily communication with the group via messaging services. What is crucial is that our services continue to operate, offering help to those who rely on it now more than ever. Our team and nurses are here, and we are open to help anyone who needs it. To do this we do need the public’s help,” said Director of Nursing, Helen Forristal.
In Limerick, despite an heroic attempt to stem the tidal wave that engulfed their services, St Munchin's Community Centre announced it would have to close its doors from April 5 due to lack of finances.
Relying on monies from its onsite hair salon, café, florist and others, its financial gap was too much to bridge -- meaning its Meals on Wheels operation will cease on April 5.
Despite the blow, it vowed to fight on until then.
"If you are elderly, sick or self-isolating, please get in touch to have dinners delivered to your door...Each day there are more and more calls to the centre for the demand of meals, so realistically we can’t put a number on it as it changes daily. Before the coronavirus, we were delivering about 200 dinners daily but that has risen immensely," it said on its Facebook page.
A GoFundMe campaign will see all donations go towards sustaining the meal drive (gf.me/u/xrajfz)
St Francis Hospice in Dublin has begun a donations appeal for its specialist palliative care service because so many of their community-based fundraising activities have been cancelled.
It costs €17.8m per year to provide St. Francis Hospice’s services in North Dublin and its environs. €11.9m is funded by the Health Service Executive and the remaining €5.9m needs to be garnered from fundraising, largely from the local community.
Actor and campaign spokesperson Brendan Gleeson said: “The vital care necessary for some of the most vulnerable and precious people within our society must continue. I know this from my own experience of St. Francis Hospice. This place has helped to carry so many of us and our families. Now it is up to all of us, if we can, to help carry them”.
Donations online can be made at www.sfh.ie, he said.
Last week, national association of charities body The Wheel said that a combination of surging demand and collapse of normal fundraising income means that charities need public support right now to an unprecedented extent.
Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel -- which represents over 1,700 charities, community and voluntary organisations, and social enterprises countrywide -- called on the Government to “put a comprehensive plan in place to support the vital work of charities through this extremely difficult time”.
According to The Wheel’s figures, the Irish Cancer Society is down a projected €4m having cancelled Daffodil Day; and Pieta House, which supports mental health and anti-suicide measures, is down up to €6m due to the postponement of their Darkness to Light fundraiser.