St Vincent de Paul in Cork has no money in the bank for the first time in more than 40 years as its multi-million ‘rainy day’ fund has dried up, writes Claire O'Sullivan.
In 2008, the Cork charity had a cash reserve of at least €4m but over the past seven years this fund was called upon repeatedly as the charity tried to cope with the “unprecedented rise in calls for help”.
Despite the country’s improved economic figures, St Vincent de Paul in Cork expects it will send out three times more Christmas Day hampers this year than last.
Requests for help have increased by 10% this year compared to last year, according to the regional vice president for the south west Brendan Dempsey. Last year also saw a 10% increase on 2014.
“We are not seeing any signs of an upturn. If anything it’s getting worse for many people,” he said.
Already, the charity has requests for 3,500 Christmas Day hampers.
This figure is expecting to grow significantly over the next three weeks. Last year, the charity sent out 1,200 hampers on Christmas day.
Also, for the first time in its history, St Vincent de Paul is not seeking toys this Christmas
It is asking solely for food donations as it has been overwhelmed with requests for help with groceries.
“Many of the couples that we are helping are well-educated people who worked hard all their lives, created jobs and were well able to look after themselves,” said Mr Dempsey.
“They are a section that we were able to turn to for help but now we are helping them.”
He said he would like to invite Taoiseach Enda Kenny to visit Cork and see “our work at the coalface”.
“Upturn? What upturn? It’s worse than it’s ever been,” he said. “We have never been so dependant on donations and church collection. Up until April this year we always had money in the bank but now that’s gone and the requests for help keep growing and growing. We are now living week to week.
“I’d like Enda Kenny to meet us in Cork and see some of the desperation that we see every night of the week.”
VM Ware and EMC-Dell staff were at St Vincent de Paul’s warehouse yesterday filling up 1,600 hampers with dry food such as porridge, peas, and beans.
In the days before Christmas, these will be topped up with perishable food such as chickens, ham, pork chops, potatoes, and eggs so they can be distributed on Christmas Eve. n St Vincent de Paul church collections take place on the first Sunday of every month with one due tomorrow.
This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner.