Vinnies see sharp rise in requests for help

WelCom September 2020 Michael Fitzsimons The Covid-19 lockdowns have resulted in a sharp rise in requests for support from the St Vincent de Paul Society across the country. The response…

WelCom September 2020

David, volunteer, and Tania Martin, social worker, cleaning incoming purchases for the food bank. Photo: Supplied

Michael Fitzsimons

The Covid-19 lockdowns have resulted in a sharp rise in requests for support from the St Vincent de Paul Society across the country.

The response from volunteers and donors has been tremendous, says 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 has 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.’

Marlena 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.’

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 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 Millie. 

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 able to redeem the voucher at their local supermarket. 

‘The cost was projected to be $5,000 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 $6,000 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 a week and since the first lockdown period Vinnies have been processing an average of 500 referrals a week,’ said Claire.

‘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 who pack and process the thousands of parcels and deliver them.’