Busiest time of year for SVdP
Wexford Society of St. Vincent de Paul will spend approximately €70,000 providing food hampers and fuel for people in need this Christmas.
'It's absolutely without a doubt the busiest time of the year for the Society' said Area President Annette Beckett who oversees conference stretching from Kilmuckridge to Rosslare and Clongeen and all the districts in between.
'I would say 80 to 85% of our calls throughout the year are for food. People wouldn't believe it but it's the honest truth.
'This time of the year, there is also fuel poverty. People don't have enough fuel to heat their homes. The fuel allowance will only buy one bag of coal and that wouldn't get you through the week', she said.
'I'm not saying that people are starving but they would be stuck for basic groceries. If you have a family with growing teenage boys, you need a lot of food very week'.
Volunteer members of the Society have been packing and delivering Christmas hampers of non-perishable goods in recent days, using St. Michael's Hall in Green Street, Wexford and church and club halls in other areas as depots.
Some people opt for fuel instead of food, to tide them over the festive period, with the value of deliveries varying, depending on whether it's a person living alone or a family.
About 90% of the food is purchased by the Society but food donations are also made by schools such as St. Peter's College which organised a Christmas food collection among students, while the Loreto secondary school hosts a fundraising concert.
There was a time when turkeys and hams would be provided but that practice had to stop due to health and safety regulations.
Some companies donate children's toys and gifts in an initiative called the Giving Tree, whereby cards with the age and gender of anonymous children are hung on a tree and employees pick one to buy something for.
A Christmas church gate collection helps with the cost of Christmas for the charity - last year, the festive collection raised just over €40,000.
'There are less people going to Mass but those who do go are very generous', said Annette. A fesive past by Reverend Arthur Minion and Fr. Aodhán Marken is also a boost.
The main funding source for all of the Society's work is Vincent's charity shop in Selskar which is run by unpaid volunteers. 'We would be out of business only for it. We wouldn't be able to fund the work we do during the year', she said.
'We are very appreciative of the donations and support we get. It doesn't have to be a generous donation, it could be a fiver or a Euro. Every penny taken in Wexford is spent in Wexford. All of us are volunteers. No-one gets paid a penny', said Annette.
The Wexford Society now has a conference dedicated to third level education, helping young people who want to go to college. Many of the students who need help come from families who may not be eligible for a grant due to borderline income levels.
'You could be just over the limit for a grant and be struggling to cover the costs of college. It's not always people who are unemployed that we help', said Annette.
'Sometimes, the student is the first person in their family to go to college. Education is the way out of poverty. We've had a lot of successes, with graduates in many careers, including dentistry and the law.' Volunteers working in the education conference stay in contact with the students, keeping an eye on their progress.