Hardship felt by the crash of 2008 is not over

Over the past two years, Feed Cork have assisted more than 5,000 families and fed more than a million meals to the less fortunate. Patrick Hogan, MD of Sea Box Group, an energy firm based in Little Island, tells us why the company is driving a food appeal for the organisation
Hardship felt by the crash of 2008 is not over
Lauren O'Donovan, Sea Box Group; Alan Mackesy, Sea Box Group; Ellen Carey, Feed Cork; Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr John Sheehan, Patrick Hogan, Sea Box Group; Aimee Coughlan, Sea Box Group; Hamp Sirmans, Feed Cork; Iris O'Brien, Feed Cork, and Coadie McCarthy, Sea Box Group, pictured at the launch of this year's Sea Box Energy’s charity campaign, the Christmas Food Appeal at Feed Cork's premises on Lower Oliver Plunkett St. Picture: Michael O'Sullivan /OSM PHOTO

THIS cannot be right — we must be in the wrong place. That’s what the Sea Box Group team said among ourselves, when we first visited Feed Cork to see the unheralded yet incredible service in action.

Feed Cork has fed more than a million meals to the less fortunate in the city and beyond over the past two and a half years. More than 5,000 families have been assisted. Those numbers are sobering as well as staggering. If we think that the hardship felt since the crash of 2008 is over for all people, we are completely mistaken. Food poverty is a very real and pressing issue of our time, just like the homelessness crisis.

What we quickly realised upon observing the work of the Feed Cork volunteers at its base on Lower Oliver Plunkett Street was that the users of the service did not have a tell-tale ‘look’ about them. They looked like you or me. They was no giveaway signs, no indication that tough times had fallen upon them. Men and women of all ages, as well as children, who were going through a hard time. Parents who would do anything to feed their youngsters, putting their pride to one side as they acknowledged they could do with some help.

There was no judgement from the volunteers at Feed Cork, only warm smiles and open arms. The little piece of kindness shown by each and every volunteer at Feed Cork’s weekly handover may have been a small gesture in and of itself, but it was a giant statement of humanity towards fellow citizens.

Our staff at Sea Box Group, of which the NRG Store is a part, were both moved by the poignancy of the situation, but also the grace of volunteers reaching out to their fellow citizens.

The men and women who serve as Feed Cork volunteers are simply awe-inspiring. Led by director Hamp Sirmans, the work done has largely gone under the radar in Cork as they prefer to keep the head down and just get on with it as a community organisation.

When the Sea Box Group team went to Feed Cork before Christmas last year, it was with the aim of adding it to our chosen charities for our inaugural NRG Store Food Appeal. Feed Cork was to join Penny Dinners and the Chocolate Box Appeal in the NRG Store Food Appeal, where large 20-foot containers were placed all over the city for businesses and the general public to donate food and Christmas treats. Thankfully the Cork public was not found wanting and the NRG Store Food Appeal was a major success for the three wonderful causes.

However, we were so moved by Feed Cork last Christmas that it stayed on our minds though all of 2019. Therefore, we decided as a Sea Box Group team that the wonderful volunteers and users of Feed Cork’s service deserved our 100% focus for this year’s NRG Store Food Appeal.

We all know the marvellous care given to the less fortunate by Caitriona Twomey and the Penny Dinners volunteers, while the Chocolate Box Appeal is in the very capable hands of Cork Civic Life and Cllr Kenneth O’Flynn this year. Feed Cork deserved a standalone campaign for Christmas 2019.

In the first 18 months, Feed Cork surpassed 500,000 meals and saw more than 5,000 families catered for, before demand for its services rocketed over the next year.

The NRG Store Food Appeal sees a range of 20-foot containers around the city filled with food for Feed Cork by the middle of December. We are asking people to bring non-perishable foods and chocolates to various drop-off points around Cork over the coming weeks.

We are calling on people all around Cork, including businesses, to get involved. As Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr John Sheehan, said at our NRG Food Appeal launch: “Feed Cork has been quietly going about its mission for more than two years, not seeking any limelight or recognition for the magnificent work it does. The organisation’s dedication to the less fortunate among us is inspiring. It would be fitting to see that dedication matched by the people of Cork, whose generosity is unrivalled and who always rise to the occasion”.

The drop off location points include:

  • NRG Store Office, Unit 8, Little Island Industrial Estate, Little Island
  • Toss Bryan, Courthouse Rd, Rathealy, Fermoy, Co. Cork
  • Billy Mackesy’s Douglas Village Foods, Douglas, Cork
  • The Squad, Unit 2 John Harrington Ind Est., Tramore Road
  • Three Degrees Hair Design, Unit 6, Moremiles, Blackpool Shopping Centre
  • Centra Little Island, Little Island Industrial Estate
  • MBC Insurance, 36 S Mall, Street, Cork
  • Gurranabraher Garda Station - Gurranabraher, Cork
  • High Street Books - South Douglas Road

Feed Cork director Hamp Sirmans said the NRG Store Food Appeal was an extra lifeline for many families in Cork.

“Tesco, Lidl, Food Cloud, M&S and others provide food in which our volunteers pack into boxes. Every Wednesday, dozens of volunteers come through our door, give up their time to bless others. We spend a few hours of the day packing boxes full of food, organising the boxes and amount of food to make sure everyone gets a fair share.

“The NRG Food Appeal will have a major impact on ensuring Christmas is a happy time for many families who might not have the means otherwise.”

Even a box of biscuits or tins of soup will go a long way between families enjoying Christmas or worrying where the next meal will come. Feed Cork and Sea Box Group will be eternally grateful for your help.

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