There are a number of charitable organisations in the Downpatrick area that support people in need, particularly in these difficult economic times.
One of these frontline organisations, the St. Vincent de Paul (SVP), has a retail outlet located at the Ballymote Centre in Downpatrick. The Ballymote area is statistically one of the most deprived areas in Northern Ireland. The SVP’s main outlet in Downpatrick is located in Irish Street and its furniture store is at Bridge Street writes Aidan Fallon.
The SVP is a world-wide organisation organised by lay people established in Enniskillen in 1848. In the North there are 182 conferences and 1000 across Ireland with a total of 9000 volunteers.
The key aim of the SVP is to provide short-term help to individuals and families under stress mainly due the economic situation and to try and foster improved self-esteeem and confidence. If necessary, SVP can signpost clients to specialist practitioners for assistance. Ultimately, the SVP strives for a fairer and more just society
As you enter the Ballymote SVP shop, you’ll notice that there is plenty of goods on display from cuddly toys to overcoats thanks to the generosity of the local people. Quality clothing, household items, books and bric-a-brac and other items, donated by the general public are available at very low cost.
The proceeds of these sales go into the coffers of the SVP to help them with their ongoing charitable work throughout the area. As well as these stores the charity organises various activities around the local area such as bag pack fundraisers and donating food to the Easter appeal. One of the key events of the tears is the annual Christmas dinner for the senior citizens.
Ballymote voluntary worker Celine O’Connor took a few minutes out to explain more about the work of the SVP. She said: “There were around fifteen different voluntary workers throughout the store during the week and there were always three working at any given time. Most of the workers were voluntary giving up their personal time.
“There is always a good spirit about the shop and plenty of craic. All the volunteers are made very welcome. The really all feel as though they want to help the local community and give back to those who needed the support. Times are tough just now and many really appreciate this support.
“Mind you,” said Celine, “It is heartening still to see people reaching into their pockets and making donations and buying items, as well as the fact that they are still donating quality clothes which are a good source of revenue for SVP. There really hasn’t been a that much of a drop in business with the recession in any way for us and we are all so glad to see that people still care enough to donate.
“Many of the people that come to Ballymote shop would be those with young families and they are good, steady customers to the shop. This is probably because they are just starting out in life really and may not be able to pay for the same product on the High Street at full retail price.”
Celine also explained about what the funds raised in the Ballymote shop were used for. She said: “The money that we make goes to helping the needy in different ways. As I said, the majority of workers are unpaid, therefore there isn’t that much money spent on staff wages. We are much more able to donate the money to those who need it.”
“Local people see the real value of the SVP shop. They see that there is not much point in paying extra money for the same quality of clothing if you can get if at a fraction of the price albeit if they are second hand. When you have little money to go round you really have little choice. It’s simple and it just makes sense.
“The SVP shop is not just popular in the actual Ballymote area but word of mouth has helped the SVP to be well known over Downpatrick and well used. The main outlet is based in Irish Street in Downpatrick which is also busy.”
SVP also has a furniture store in Downpatrick located at Bridge Street and they accept furniture donations. This could be old beds, suites, chairs, tables, and other items. Persons and families in need can apply to the SVP for help and these items are available at a very low cost.
If you add up all the volunteer hours each week at even the minimum wage level, it soon becomes apparent that the volunteers are donating hundreds of pounds each week to this charitable cause through their direct efforts. If the fifteen volunteers worked in total 130 combined hours in one week, that equates to a contribution of around £1000 in labour… a huge effort in underpining the charity.
So…coming up to Christmas don’t forget to give a little to your local St Vincent de Paul shop… every penny goes a long way.
To contact the Downpatrick SVP – call – 028 44 614194.
To contact the Downpatrick SVP furniture store – call – 028 44616960.
Check them out and LIKE them on Facebook at: Downpatrick SVP
St Vincent de Paul in Ireland – www.svp.ie