More than 500 Cork families to benefit from Svp donations this Christmas

'AT least 2,000 people' will benefit from the St Vincent de Paul annual appeal, which launched in recent days.

Food, toys and money will be donated at 'giving trees' located in a number of shopping centres in Cork city and county and Dublin in the coming weeks.

Cash will go towards sustaining SVP's education, food and fuel support networks, with the coming weeks representing the biggest fundraising period of the year for the charity.

Trees will be in place in a number of different shopping centres until December 21, but people can donate directly to SVP through shops, branches and over the phone too if interested.

Many private companies also donate directly, with the drive usually resulting in approximately 8,000 toys being donated, with hundreds of families benefitting, according to Gerry Garvey, regional coordinator for SVP.

"A conservative estimate would say that 500 to 600 families in the city region see some benefit," Mr Garvey said.

"That probably means that at least 2,000 people see the fruits of the donations every year."

For SVP, the challenge comes in balancing donations to benefit as many people as possible.

"Toys are traditionally a big one but we also see significant donations of non-perishable food items and gift vouchers for older children, which are always in demand," Mr Garvey said.

Donations of money are also essential in sustaining the fuel, food and education support that SVP gives throughout the year.

The winter fuel budget, covering oil, gas and coal, will come to about €160,000 this winter alone, with demand spiking since the cold snap kicked in in recent weeks.

"There is massive demand," Mr Garvey said.

"There is also our education support, which is the real poverty breaker. We have spent about €250,000 supporting people from primary right up to third level education, including college, trades and post-Leaving Cert courses.

"For us, this is the key: if someone gets a good education and a good job, they can set themselves up and, hopefully, won't need to rely on the likes of SVP anymore. For many people, they are the first in their families so it is transformative for a number of people."

See www.svp.ie for more information on getting involved in the annual appeal.

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