Volunteers ready to help those facing a far from festive season

The real heroes at Christmas are the many local organisations and volunteers who help make Christmas better for those facing a difficult festive season.

Christmas can be a grim time for many families and individuals, including the homeless, victims of domestic violence or those who simply cannot make ends meet, but there are many groups around the county who are making efforts to help those in need.

Navan councillor, Alan Lawes is one of those volunteers and he has been busy in the run up to Christmas.

He runs an outreach programme for rough sleepers and has also organised hampers and Christmas presents for families in emergency accommodation, children in direct Provision and children in Traveller and Roma families.

“We had seven rough sleepers in Navan last year,” he recalls.

Alan will be looking after any rough sleepers this year, but he hopes that there won't be anybody on the streets.

“We will be bringing hot meals, drinks and a hot Christmas dinner to anyone who is rough sleeping.”

Cllr Lawes said that things are particularly difficult this year. In the past he had been helped out by the Dublin group Inner City Helping Homelessness, but that organisation has been liquidated, and he is now working on his own with help from a number of local volunteers.

Cllr Lawes also organised a shoebox appeal which will see gifts provided to families in emergency accommodation, direct provision and Roma and Traveller families.

“People have been very generous and I want to thank all the schools, community groups and volunteers who helped collect so much.

“More than 65 Christmas food hampers and toys for children were delivered to Meath County Council at Buvinda House on Friday and I would like to thank the Council for their assistance in delivering them to people in emergency accommodation.”

“Walterstown GFC allowed us store everything in their clubhouse and I would like to thank everyone who helped,” he said.

The Soup Kitchen in Navan expecting to be busy this Christmas and will be open on Christmas Day and all over Christmas.

From Christmas Eve until New Year’s Day it will open from 10am to 2pm each day.

Mark O’Neill explained that as well as running the soup kitchen on Brews Hill, they also deliver food hampers each week to those in need.

“We had been having 105 to 107 requests for hampers each week, but there has been a serious increase and we will be delivering 180 in Christmas week,” he said,

Mr O Neill said they were expecting to feed up to 60 people in the soup kitchen on Christmas day.

Meath Women’s Refuge and Support Services are also expecting a busy Christmas.

Sinead Smith, Manager said that every time further restrictions are introduced demand for their services rise.

“Covid has been challenging for us. We supported 477 women last year. 60 per cent of the women who came to us for help were aged over 30 and many of them had children,” she said.