After many years of wishing, the Society of St Vincent de Paul Centre in Otahuhu, Auckland, has finally got a brand-new truck.
It came just in time, too, as demand for food parcels and furniture soared this year due to the coronavirus pandemic and the centre’s old truck was on its last legs.
South Auckland Area president Noel Surrey and centre manager Renee Joseph thanked the Hugo Charitable Trust for donating the truck and funding its signwriting.
Ms Joseph raised the need for a new truck three years ago. Former area president Frank Heffernan was able to connect the group to the trust.
Hugo Charitable Trust chief executive officer Aoibheann Monaghan said the trust has donated two trucks and a large walk-in freezer to SVdP this year, putting its total donation to date to $154,000. The truck alone, which was imported from Europe, cost $100,000.
Mr Surrey said the demand for food parcels goes up and down month by month.
“It is not showing any signs of diminishing really. And it may even grow depending on what happens with jobs. We’re dealing with people we’ve never dealt with before, who have never asked for anything, who have always supplied their own needs,” he said.
Along with the increase in demand, though, was an increase in the help they were getting.
“There’s increased cooperation between the agencies. And the Government has been involved,” Mr Surrey said, “and certainly, the public in general. Our Catholic parishes have increased their support, in terms of cash and groceries and furniture. People have taken on board that they may be better off than some people and gone out of their way to share it.”
“The Catholic Caring Foundation regularly supports us with funding for food for our foodbank,” Ms Joseph added. “We work closely with the St Vincent de Paul Young Vinnies team in town. We’re working together as our St Vinnies food bank work has grown both here and in town.”
Mr Surrey said while they are meeting the increased demand for food, they still need more beds.
He said the pandemic has also impacted one of the sources of their income, the opportunity shops.
“We really took a big downturn in income over most of the year,” Mr Surrey said. “At the same time, our shops have struggled somewhat. A lot of volunteers in the shops are elderly people and so the risk of becoming infected has affected some of them in terms of their confidence.”
He said some of them took a while to come back. Others just stopped coming.
“But that’s just an incentive for us to think about how to encourage more people and younger people to help. It’s a big commitment to give up time for no return, but you know you are doing God’s will,” Mr Surrey said.
He said apart from food, furniture and cash donations, what they need is more people to volunteer.
They also need people to spread the word that help is available through SVdP South Auckland Centre.