by MIKE FITZSIMONS
The Covid-19 lockdowns have resulted in a sharp rise across the country in requests for support from the St Vincent de Paul Society.
The response from volunteers and donors has been tremendous, said Marlena Hoeft-Marwick, national president of the St Vincent de Paul Society.
“Some people have donated money, others have given food items and essential household goods. Our ongoing efforts to support the disadvantaged would not be possible without a multitude of donors and volunteers.”
“Many regions have received donations, which [have] been used to help the disadvantaged in those areas.
“Our national office launched a national appeal in June, which has so far raised $15,000. We have also developed social media platforms to raise awareness of the needs in the community and to encourage people to contribute.”
Ms Hoeft-Marwick said the society was seeing people and families who do not usually ask for help.
“This is a very tough time for a lot of people – people sleeping in vans, people in over-crowded homes, and people needing food parcels and household essentials just to get through.”
Mike Daly, the society’s area president in Christchurch, said that, during lockdown, the society was faced with the challenge of continuing to provide assistance to welfare clients, when it had no income from its retail shops, which were closed.
“We designed an electronic method of issuing grocery vouchers to those in need. The system worked very well, with the client receiving the voucher by text and then [being] able to redeem the voucher at their local supermarket,” Mr Daly said.
“The cost was projected to be $5000 per week. We set up a “Give a Little” page and, after one month in level 4 of Covid-19, we had issued over 300 vouchers and spent over $20,000. During the same period, our ‘Give a Little’ page had received $14,000, with an additional $6000 donated directly to Vinnies. God indeed provides through the generosity of many!”
In Auckland, during the first lockdown period from March to end of June, the Vinnies responded to well over 12,000 referrals/requests for food parcels, said Claire Murphy, Auckland area president.
“This unprecedented demand for food peaked at around 1000 parcels per week and, since the first lockdown period, Vinnies have been processing an average of 500 referrals per week.
“Each family food parcel contains dry goods, fresh produce and bread, and a box of frozen meat, dairy and vegetables. Each food parcel is valued at around $100.
“The largest demand for food parcels comes from those affected by job losses. Those who are struggling include Pasifika and Maori families, solo parents, those who are mentally and physically unwell, refugees, the homeless, those with expired visas, students on student and working visas, and the elderly.”
Ms Murphy said it was a miracle that Vinnies Auckland was able to process 500 parcels each week.
“This huge effort is being achieved thanks to donors on the ‘Give a Little’ page and friends of Vinnies, who support us each year. We are also lucky to have wonderful volunteers – individuals, youth groups and organisations that pack and process the thousands of parcels and deliver them.”
The society in Westport reports that “since lockdown, we have had numerous requests for assistance with food parcels. We have been very fortunate to have received generous anonymous donations from people who know the work we do in the community, and want to do their bit to help”.
Kathy Egan, from the society’s Taradale conference, said that, since lockdown, “we have been busy re-stocking the depleted community foodbank, taking the elderly from the local rest homes for walks, and delivering ‘cuisine’ food, donated by a local business, to several families. We also provided funds to local early childhood centres for outings and equipment not covered by Ministry of Education funding.”
“In these cold winter months, firewood has been delivered to many families and we have also provided personal items for women and children staying at the Women’s Refuge.”
Millie Lambess, the society’s Wellington area communications manager, said that, since the first lockdown ended in June, the Vinnies Wellington food bank was continuing to operate at a “100 per cent plus” increase in support provided to clients.
“Alongside the distribution of practical assistance, our community social worker is experiencing an increasing need for psycho-social support, as the long-term effects of the COVID-19 lockdown emerge,” said Ms Lambess.