Girl (10) takes to Cork's streets with meals for rough sleepers after emptying 'swear jar'

Girl (10) takes to Cork's streets with meals for rough sleepers after emptying 'swear jar'

10-year-old Ella Prendergast from Churchfield, donating a dinner from funds raised at her home to emergency first responder Anthony O'Byrne, during the launch of the Cork Street Angels sleeping pods on Patrick's Street. Picture: David Keane.

AN inspiring 10-year-old girl has taken to the streets to feed Cork’s homeless with funds she collected from her family’s swear jar.

Ella Prendergast from Churchfield has been providing the homeless with three square meals a week since the beginning of January. However, this week was the first time she was able to hand out the dinners in person. Her community has joined in the efforts, with Tobin’s Kitchen in Gurranabraher matching every dinner she provides.

It all started at the beginning of this year. Despite being confined to five kilometers and not being able to visit friends, Ella was still mindful of those less fortunate than her. She decided to set up a swear jar in her house which has enabled her to pay for dinners as well as donations to the charity Street Angels.

The voluntary organisation, founded by Michael and Hazel Dennehy, has now taken the little girl under their wing.

This week she joined her parents and the group to hand out dinners to rough sleepers. She was also able to see the sleeping pods she contributed towards with her pocket money and fundraising. For as long as her family can remember, Ella has always been a caring child. Her kind nature has undoubtedly paid off.

“I was thinking about where I live and how nice and comfortable it is,” Ella said of her desire to help others.

“I was also thinking about the nice clothes I have. Homeless people don’t have those things. If I’m in town with my cousins and friends we always throw money into their cups. Then I came up with the idea of a swear jar. Whenever my dad was watching a match on television I’d sit right in next to him with a pen and paper. I kept a note of every time he swore and usually ended up with two euro for the jar.”

However, it didn’t end there. Ella also checked in with her grandparents by telephone every evening to see how many swear words they had clocked up.

“Every night she was ringing her grandparents to ask them how many times they had cursed and make a record of it,” her mum Susan said.

The idea proved lucrative for Ella’s fundraising.

“One of her grandmothers actually paid for three in advance when she knew it was going to be a stressful week,” Susan laughed.

She admits that people now make an extra special effort to watch their language around her.

“Her dad’s gotten very good now so Ella hasn’t made much money this month.”

Susan said the family is now more tuned in to swear words than ever.

“If the grandads were building something, her ears would prick up because she knew she might get something from the swear jar. It’s gotten to a point now where we are so tuned into swear words. If we hear one in a song or on television we’ll automatically shout ‘euro’.”

And it’s not just swear words that warrant a euro in the jar. Naughty behaviour could also cost you. Ella’s mum, Susan explained.

“If her brother and sister are naughty and don’t do their chores then they have to add something to the swear jar too.”

Ella chipped in: “If my dad gives out to us for not doing jobs then it’s a euro for the swear jar. I never actually used a swear word. If I did, I would probably be in my room for two weeks.”

Susan said that Ella likely inherited her giving nature from her dad Shane.

“When she was four years old she asked her dad if they could go across town and a buy a pizza,” Susan said. “She then sat down and ate it with a homeless man”

The fourth class student described how much she looks up to her dad.

“I’d like to be just like my dad because he has volunteered in Penny Dinners and is super caring and thoughtful,” Ella said.

Susan said that Ella derives as much happiness from helping the homeless as she would from visiting Disneyland.

“Kids are special,” Susan said. “They see things that parents don’t. She was so excited about going out to hand out the meals it was as if she was going to Disneyland. If she is offered a treat for being good she will ask for something to help a person living on the street. That’s the kind of child she is.”

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