A helping hand in Clonakilty

Posted on: 1st December, 2014

Category: Features

Contributor: West Cork People

The Society of St Vincent de Paul is the largest voluntary charitable organisation in Ireland — its role is to give practical support to those experiencing poverty and social exclusion in society. The St Vincent de Paul Society in the Clonakilty area provides a wide range of services to people in need.

Have you ever wondered what it feels like to have to send your children to school hungry, to not know how you are going to put the next meal on the table? Have you ever lived in fear of having your electricity cut off because you put feeding your family before paying the bill or had no money to buy coal or oil to heat the house, no money to buy food, no money to put petrol in the car, if you even have a car?  Ever been in a position where you’ve had no money for unexpected expenses or had to live in sub-standard accommodation because you can’t afford to move?

Sadly, this scenario is commonplace for people all over Ireland, people you pass every day on the streets of  Clonakilty, people who could be your neighbour, a friend or even a member of your family.

“It can be very difficult for people to make that initial contact with the Society, as they haven’t been in a position where they have needed to ask for help before,” says Noel Lawlor, President of the Clonakilty branch of St Vincent de Paul. “We would hope that they would look on the Society as family who are in a position to help them financially through a difficult period. Our members are very accessible and our door is always open to anyone.”

The Society of St Vincent de Paul provides practical financial support and advise, assistance with grants for fuel and a short term safety net for those who fall outside the welfare state.

It provides social housing to the over-50s at affordable prices. There are 24 housing units in three locations around Clonakilty town. This year, an additional €150,000 (some of which is SEAI grant-aided) has been spent on upgrading the heating system and insulation of the houses to make them more comfortable and fuel efficient for the residents.

There is also an Education Grant scheme provided by the Society to which people can apply for financial assistance to pursue third level education. Anyone is welcome to apply. “Many of the young people who have received and would receive Education grants from the Society would otherwise not been in a position to enter Third Level Education,” explains Noel. “It’s fantastic to see the recipients of these grants progressing and achieving their goals in life. Many of them now support the Society themselves.”

The reason the Society is so effective and helps so many people is because of the holistic approach it takes when helping people. Personal contact and visitations are made to people seeking help, allowing them to talk through their difficulties. Offering support and comfort is one of the key roles of the Society.  Through this, it attempts to empower and support people to become self-sufficient and enable them to help themselves. There are many people who need financial support but money is not always the priority, quite often people simply need someone to talk to. They are lonely or just need to share their worries and burdens with someone.

The Society of St Vincent de Paul in Clonakilty has 30 active members. The group’s expenditure in 2013 was €150,000 and it is anticipated that this figure will increase to €160,000 in 2014.

“In what has been a difficult year for charities all over Ireland, we would like to assure people that any monies donated to the local branch of St Vincent de Paul are distributed in the immediate locality. Administration expenses are just three per cent of the overall funds raised locally.”

Without the generosity of the public, the Society would not be able to provide help and support to those less well off. It’s main source of funds comes from the annual Church Gate Collection, which will be held this year on December 13 and 14 and also funding received from other community groups, bequests received in wills and other generous donations.

The conference is always looking for people to help out in either becoming a member of else helping with short term projects.

If you wish to make a donation you can do so in the following ways: Contact the Society directly on 023 8821400.
Contact a member directly contact details on the window of our office at Ozanam Court Casement Street..
Donate directly into the bank : Bank of Ireland Clonakilty, Account Number  29018853, Sort Code  90-26-10.

The Society is grateful for all the help and support received.

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