A charity is poised to distribute Christmas food hampers to some 2,500 needy families across Cork city and county this festive season.
The figure emerged as Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald launched Saint Fiacre’s Conference of the Society of St Vincent de Paul’s (SVP) annual Christmas Food Appeal yesterday.
He visited the charity’s warehouse at the Northpoint Business Park on the Mallow Road to view the massive logistics operation behind the initiative.
St Fiacre’s conference secretary, Kate Durrant, said they launched the initiative four years ago when volunteers became frustrated by the growing level of hunger they saw around them.
“We were calling to houses where the parents were working hard and fridges were literally empty,” she said. “We decided rather than just handing out vouchers, we would deliver hampers.”
More than 100 families were helped that year.
But, despite talk of economic recovery, demand for the service has grown.
“We now have a list of around 2,500 families who will have food hampers delivered in the run-up to Christmas,” said Ms Durrant said.
People in need have now been encouraged to reach out and seek help.
“We’re there to help,” said Ms Durrant. “We’ve all needed help. This is a confidential service. There should be no stigma and no shame attached to asking for help.
“They should consider this a gift from those who have excess to those who haven’t got enough. We deliver the hampers in an unmarked van, and our volunteers are very sensitive in the way they handle all these situations.”
Each hamper contains a turkey, hams, pork chops and mince, vegetables, potatoes, eggs, a Christmas cake and pudding, mince pies, selection boxes for the children, and all the extra trimmings.
“We want people to be able to close their door after the hamper delivery, and relax, safe in the knowledge that all their food needs are looked after,” said Ms Durrant.
The special hamper deliveries will begin on December 12, with about 200 deliveries being made by volunteers each week, with deliveries to some special cases continuing right up to Christmas morning.
Ms Durrant praised the support of the BIA/Food Cloud initiative, local suppliers, and a group of willing and committed volunteers and staff.
The charity will mount special collections for food and cash donations over the coming weeks.
It has also invited schools or companies who may be interested in supporting the work of SVP over the coming weeks to contact them on 021 4270444.
A Limerick mother has described living in substandard rental accommodation, and later going into labour while sharing a hotel bed with her children after becoming homeless.
Kate O’Loughlin said she owes everything to homelessness service group Novas, which came to their rescue after her rented home was put up for sale. After renting for two and a half years in a “damp and mouldy” property, she eventually had to turn to Novas for help.
Last August, while pregnant with her fifth child, the single mother went into labour surrounded by her other children in emergency hotel accommodation.
Kate, 28, said: “So I was in the hotel room, in one double bed, pregnant, with all the kids, in the one bed, and I went into labour. I’ll never forget it.”
In May, prior to giving birth, she said she had to make a “heartbreaking” decision to split up her children because the hotel could not facilitate them in one room.
I had to make a choice,” she said. “To pick a child that had to go and [stay] with a friend of mine. I picked my eldest, Ellie, so she couldn’t come to the hotel with us. Every time I was leaving Ellie, she was heartbroken. One day I looked over at Ellie and the tears were streaming down her face. It was heartbreaking. So I snuck her into the hotel room.” Last month, Novas secured a three-bedroom house for the family.
According to Novas, the numbers of homeless are getting worse.
Launching its annual report for last year, the organisation said it has helped 557 children in Limerick and Cork — an increase of 55% in the numbers of children becoming homeless in the Munster region.
“Last year we worked with 3,552 people in total — a 47% increase in a 12-month period. The most significant numbers appearing were children,” said Una Burns, Novas head of policy and communications.
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