Feel good fashion: Get involved with Cork Simon’s Jumper Day

For as little as €5, you can help spread the festive cheer to Cork's most vulnerable this Christmas
Feel good fashion: Get involved with Cork Simon’s Jumper Day

Centra and PepsiCo are among the many supporters of Cork Simon's annual Christmas Jumper Day, but any group can take part!

Every year, once October 31st reaches a close and we roll into November, there’s an undeniable shift in the world around us. Suddenly, Christmas carols begin pouring out of the radio and shopping centre speakers. The ghouls and fake cobwebs are cleared away while shop windows are instead filled with Santa Claus and friends. A sense of excitement is palpable wherever you go.

As Christmas rapidly approaches, much of that excitement is based on either the staff parties we have coming up, or the festive activities planned at school for the kids.

This year, while planning these Christmas celebrations, why not take a moment to give back to the community while you’re at it?

Cork Simon’s Christmas Jumper Day is not only a great way to boost morale around your office, shop floor, school or any other workplace, but also to give the charity itself a boost and allow them to continue their invaluable work across the region.

“The Christmas Jumper Day is a really important fundraiser for us, as the majority of our support each year comes in during the winter period, particularly in the run up to Christmas,” says Kerry Mac Mahon, Head of Partnerships at Cork Simon.

“The Jumper Day is really a collective fundraising effort, one that enables everybody in the community to take part. Schools, workplaces, community groups — they can all get involved. It’s very easy to do, you can just wear a jumper and make a donation wherever you are!

Kerry Mac Mahon, Head of Partnerships at Cork Simon.
Kerry Mac Mahon, Head of Partnerships at Cork Simon.

“This is our tenth year running the Jumper Day campaign, and it’s been hugely successful for Cork Simon — we’ve raised over €850,000 in that time. Every year we have something in the region of 400 participants taking part, and last year we received €140,000 in donations from the Jumper Day. The difference that money makes on the ground is really tangible, as those funds are used directly across all our services.” 

Those services are wide ranging, and are becoming a vital resource for growing numbers of people as the cost-of-living crisis rages on. “We provide what we would describe as emergency services, which are very much about meeting peoples’ basic needs. Those include giving people a bed for the night, a hot meal, and someone to chat to about their situation, who can help them figure out what to do next,” Kerry explains. “We’re dealing with men and women who are homeless, in that crisis situation, all of the time. We also work with people to help move them out of homelessness and into housing they can afford, that’s a really big part of our work. We also have high-support housing and specialist services, and we offer support programmes, such as employment programmes that help people find their way back into the workforce through training and work placement.” 

With such valuable work being done by Cork Simon, it’s no surprise that the charity has so many loyal supporters throughout the county. One such person is Kevin Herlihy, owner of a number of local Centra stores.

“Cork Simon is just a fantastic charity, one that I’ve always been a supporter of,” he explains. “They help so many people, and there are many ways we’ve shown them support at Centra over the years, but I love the Christmas Jumper Day in particular as it’s a way of having great fun at the same time as raising money.

Red FM's Ciara Revins judged the 'Best Dressed' competition for Herlihy’s Centra,
Red FM's Ciara Revins judged the 'Best Dressed' competition for Herlihy’s Centra,

“We’ve participated in the Christmas Jumper Day for the last five years now, and in that time it’s really grown legs. We make a real occasion out of it each year, it’s one of the highlights in the calendar for us! The staff really go all out with dressing up in the maddest costumes they can find and decorating the shop with our Christmas decorations. Last year we even had a local celebrity, Ciara Revins from Red FM, come in and judge our ‘Best Dressed’ competition.

“There's nothing like that bit of rivalry, the friendly banter between each store to see who will win. The Jumper Day creates a really good atmosphere amongst the team every year, not least because it’s an opportunity for us to do something nice for our local community and those who rely on Cork Simon.” 

"Something nice" is almost an understatement for what Kevin and his team at Centra have done for Cork Simon. Between their group of over 300 staff, they’ve raised about €10,000 in total for the charity since they began participating in the Jumper Day five years ago.

The staff at Centra aren’t the only ones who really get into the festive spirit for Christmas Jumper Day, however. In fact, across PepsiCo’s four locations in Cork, it’s the staff who have been the driving force behind the company’s support for Cork Simon.

“Across our corporation, we have an initiative called PepsiCo Positive, which encourages the entire staff to engage with their surrounding local communities wherever they’re located for work. At PepsiCo Ireland, we support a number of community groups and charity organisations as a company, but we encourage and support our employees to do that on an individual level too,” explains Myles O’Donnell, a Senior Director at PepsiCo.

PepsiCo Ireland will soon be hosting their own Christmas Jumper Day in-person again for the first time since the pandemic.
PepsiCo Ireland will soon be hosting their own Christmas Jumper Day in-person again for the first time since the pandemic.

“Wanting to support Cork Simon is an obvious choice for us at PepsiCo, because the value of the work they’re doing is undeniable. We can really get behind who they are, what they stand for, and the work they do for the community. It was a very strong choice from our employees too, they were really keen for us to support and engage with Cork Simon, and they’ve really kept the initiative going. PepsiCo Ireland have been supporting Cork Simon for over 10 years at this stage, it’s an association that we’re very proud of and are happy to be continuing this year.” 

This year’s support of the charity will be particularly important for PepsiCo Ireland, as it marks their return to celebrating Christmas Jumper Day in-person for the first time since the pandemic.

“We’re looking forward to it! I think everybody has missed that coming together, it’s always a great atmosphere and a nice lead in to the Christmas season,” says Myles. “PepsiCo Ireland have four locations in Cork and we celebrate the Jumper Day across all of those. It always gets really high engagement — at least 40% of the team take part each year, and a higher percentage would make a donation and contribute to our fundraising, but might not don the jumper!

“The best part of our Jumper Day is that it’s such a group effort, whatever amount our team raises on the day is always matched by PepsiCo Ireland if not surpassed.” 

As well as the team spirit that it’s created, something that’s drawn both Myles and Kevin to supporting Cork Simon is how helpful they’ve found the charity. From digital resources to official Cork Simon branding to help raise awareness of your company’s involvement in the Jumper Day, they can provide it all!

“Over the past ten years, we’ve built quite a vibrant Christmas Jumper Day community at Cork Simon,” says Kerry. “We have up to 500 different companies, schools and groups that have participated over the years, but we would always love to have more!

“It’s really something anyone can do. We understand that funds are tight for so many of our supporters this year, but the great thing about our Jumper Day is that it doesn’t cost a lot. We ask each individual taking part to donate €5, but in schools it’s actually a cost of just €2 per child. We recognise that parents are sending kids into school constantly having to pay for something!

Schools can hold their own Jumper Day for Cork Simon, with students asked to contribute just €2 each.
Schools can hold their own Jumper Day for Cork Simon, with students asked to contribute just €2 each.

“The sad reality is we know that everybody is struggling this Christmas, but the need for help is still huge amongst the men and women turning to us for support. We would really encourage people to give what they can, but we of course understand that everybody is pinched this year.” 

Even if people can’t afford to make a donation themselves, Kerry explains that you can still support the Christmas Jumper Day campaign.

“We’d hope that all the groups involved will spread the word about their celebrations this year, so even if you’re not personally taking part in a Jumper Day yourself, please do share or comment on any Jumper Day posts you spot on social media — maybe one of your own friends or followers will see it and decide it's a good idea for them to get involved with too. We understand people are pinched, so even helping us to spread our hashtag, #CorkSimonJumperDay, would mean a lot to us.

To find out more about how you can support Cork Simon, and to get yourself, your school or your workplace signed up for a Christmas Jumper Day, visit the charity’s website.

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