Desperate families flood city SVP with 4,000 calls in a week
Families have inundated the St Vincent de Paul with 4,000 calls for help in a single week in the Dublin area alone as Christmas approaches.
The nationwide charity is hoping to match last year's donations of €80m.
Food, fuel, bedding and clothes are the top priorities for struggling families in the capital who made the calls over a five-day period last week.
Nationwide the society has fielded an estimated 150,000 calls since mid-November. As funds come under increasing pressure, volunteers are hoping the big fundraising effort will equal last year's income level.
National director Kieran Murphy said one in four calls was from someone who had "never contacted the St Vincent de Paul before. That's a very significant number and an indication of how bad things are.
"Christmas is our big fundraising time. We take in 60-70pc of our funding in November and December and that has to last us right through the next year.
"It is critically important to us that the Christmas appeal is successful, but some of the feedback has been that there has been a drop in income."
It will take some weeks fully to collate the figures but donations are already down 20pc since 2009.
Mr Murphy said January was one of the society's busiest months because "people make choices over Christmas".
"They might put off paying an energy bill because of Christmas and then they have to face these debts in the new year. January is a really difficult time."
The society is also finding that an increasing number of people are suffering from stress and depression.
"When our volunteers visit a home, it's not a simple thing of giving food or money. Part of the role of the volunteer is to listen and explore what assistance they can provide."
Geoff Meagher, national president of the charity, said the SVP deeply appreciated each donation received, whether it was just a few euro from a child or from someone struggling financially, or a large donation from a business.
"We understand that in many circumstances the value of individual donations may have to be reduced.
"Apart from financial donations, we continue to receive very welcome donations of food and toys."