Heat or eat – ‘Impossible choices’ for people in need this Christmas as SVP South-West face ‘toughest Christmas and New Year in decades’
On the launch of their Annual Car Draw, St. Vincent De Paul (SVP) South-West says they are facing their most demanding Christmas and winter period in several decades as vulnerable people are being forced to choose between heating their homes or feeding themselves or their families this year.
With the cost-of-living crisis deepening, the charity is reporting that more people than ever are seeking help in the run up to the festive and winter season, with 1,150 calls for help per week (a 30% increase on last year).
This is expected to reach a peak of 1,400 calls per week in December as the Society has revealed significant numbers of people in Cork and Kerry are reaching out to them seeking assistance as they struggle to cope with sky-high energy costs, increased prices for fuel and dramatic rises in the price of food.
The charity has also revealed that the most significant increase in calls this year is coming from lower-income earners in full-time employment.
Speaking at the launch of the SVP South-West Annual Car Draw, SVP South-West’s Regional Co-ordinator Gerry Garvey said the charity is gearing up for one of the most difficult periods for the South-West region in many years.
“We have received an unprecedented number of calls for this time of year and from all walks of life, including but not limited to; pensioners and social welfare parents, carers and those on disability payments, and those on lower-paid employment.
Energy costs are the primary concern for callers, with SVP providing fuel assistance to families and vulnerable individuals in Cork and Kerry during the winter months. The price of a bag of coal has almost doubled this year – it may even increase again, and this has really put a strain on our reserve funds for the year”, Mr. Garvey said.
“Energy costs are crippling, but unfortunately that’s not the only issue, the rising cost of food has also impacted our funds, and we need to ensure that we increase the food vouchers we provide in accordance with the cost of living and these heightened food prices”, he added.
“The overriding theme we are seeing this year is that, in addition to struggling and vulnerable people, the cost-of-living crisis is pushing full-time lower income workers further into poverty and we are receiving calls from people who are in despair every day because they are struggling massively to cope with basic living expenses”, he remarked.
80% of SVP’s core fundraising is now conducted during the October to December period, with traditional church collections only permitted to resume this year post pandemic. The key fundraising drive for SVP South-West across Cork and Kerry is the Annual Car Draw which has again been extended to Kerry this year and funds generated there will be used to support people in need in Kerry. We would also like to say a special thank you to the Cavanagh family / The Tomar Trust who again donated a brand-new Ford Focus for the draw this year.
Regional President Paddy O’Flynn said that this year, the fundraiser would be even more critical to the charity to help them to continue assisting people across both Cork and Kerry. Mr O’Flynn said:
“The public has always been extremely generous to St Vincent De Paul’s South-West region of Cork and Kerry. Last year, we were blown away by the support we received during such a difficult time. We appreciate that this Christmas is going to be more challenging for many people across all walks of life. However, we are deeply concerned about the impact of the cost of living and the pressure it has placed on our core services.
The numbers of people who require our assistance this year are unprecedented, people are being forced to make an impossible choice this Christmas – heat or eat, and the funds raised from the Annual Car Draw this year are vital to us to enable us to help as many people as possible”.
“While we are not a homeless charity, we also do a lot of work behind the scenes to prevent people from losing their homes. We also act as a “last resort” for people in third-level education and provide funding and bursaries to approx. 190 students from socially disadvantaged backgrounds who would not be in a position to attend college if they did not receive funding from the Society, and we have been receiving more calls from students this year seeking our assistance”, he continued: “It has been another exceptionally challenging year for SVP South-West but particularly for the families and individuals we support. We depend on the generosity of our many donors and we’re asking them to support us once again, if at all possible, in the coming weeks.
Our fundraising needs remain consistently high, and we are once again turning to online appeals for the Annual Car Draw. We are extremely grateful for any support that we receive. Each and every donation will make a difference and we want to take this opportunity to thank the people of Cork and Kerry for all of their support this year to date”, Mr O’Flynn concluded.
In addition to supporting families, in the run up to and throughout the festive period, the charity continues to provide up to 4,530 homes across Cork and Kerry with regular coal deliveries throughout the winter and are delivering approx. 350 food hampers every week to families in need through the SVP Cork and Kerry Hamper Projects.
Last year, over 8,400 families and individuals were contacted and supported by SVP volunteers in Cork and Kerry Mary Frances Behan, South-West Regional Vice President and Area President for North County Kerry echoed Mr O’Flynn’s comments. She said: “Since the pandemic, we have continued to find new ways to contact and help families and individuals we assist and have overcome many challenges to do so. We couldn’t have done this without the support of the public, and we really do appreciate it. It has been another tough year, and this year looks set to be the most difficult in recent years. However, we remain committed to ensuring that all families and individuals who need our help will be supported irrespective of the challenges that we face. We are now back to visiting people in their homes, which is the essence of SVP - providing support and friendship as well as practical support such as vouchers and energy support".
The Annual SVP South-West Car Draw 2022 is a key fundraising event for the region, with tickets and free post-return envelopes delivered to every household in Cork and Kerry and the added option of buying tickets online. Donations are also welcome through both channels.
Tickets for the raffle cost €5 each and can be purchased online at the following link: www.galabid.com/SVPcardraw
Alternatively, Freepost SVP envelopes can be returned in or dropped into the SVP Regional Office at Ozanam House, 2 Tuckey Street, Cork or Unit 2 Monavalley Business Park, Tralee, Co Kerry.
The final date for entries will be 12 noon on Friday 6th January 2023.
The first prize will be a brand-new Ford Focus, kindly donated by the Kavanagh family’s TOMAR Trust, In addition to this, there will be six other cash prizes.
The draw will take on January 11th at CAB Motors, Cork with the Lord Mayor in attendance where the winners will be announced.
Details of the winners will be published on the SVP website on Saturday 14th May and in the Irish Examiner with the event streamed later on social media.