‘We are a helping hand and a shoulder to cry on as well’
The co-founder of a Navan-based charity store says the outlet has become "a helping hand" and a "shoulder to cry on" for the local community since its opening in 2013.
The St Vincent De Paul Furniture store in Balmoral Industrial Estate has become a vital resource to the people of Navan and beyond in recent years, now more than ever with a 70 per cent increase in requests from service users in recent months due to the cost of living crisis.
The concept was the brainchild of Seamus Ryan with John Reilly, a former furniture store owner coming on board to bring the idea to life.
The shop is an important resource according to John, not just for people who need items at a reasonable price, but for people looking for somewhere to donate items they no longer need. Not to mention the help those in the community receive as a result of funds raised.
"Seamus Ryan came up with the idea, then he brought me on board with it and along with our team we have built it up to what it is today," he said.
"We took a unit in Balmoral and now have four different extensions on it. The whole idea of it is to raise money for all of local people in the area."
Along with the retail part of the initiative, John and his team visit people in the evenings to offer support both financially and emotionally.
"In the evenings I do visitations with other members," he said. "We visited 17 houses last night and we gave out vouchers for food, pre- paid gas and fuel, people are really struggling with these things right now."
"The idea of a visitation is to see how people are coping and what needs they have. There could be a number of scenarios facing them such as a domestic abuse situation or a single parent struggling, in which case we try and give them some information in what way to deal with it and put them in contact with an organisation that can help them.
"We are a helping hand and a shoulder to cry on as well. We also try to give as much help to the elderly at this time of the year, sometimes they just want someone to have a chat with and that's what we are there for. It's very tough for people at the moment, the electricity and gas bills, fuel, the food shopping have all gone up.
"We are there to fall back on and to help them out in this area."
There are five St Vincent De Paul conference groups in Navan. John is President of the St Patrick's Conference.
The conferences are the backbone of the organisation's local operations with members gathering through this forum to make plans and thrash out fundraising ideas.
John who once owned Reilly Bros Kitchen and Bedrooms in Mullaghboy Industrial Estate spends his days travelling around the region collecting donations to bring back to the store in Navan as he explains:
"I go out all over Leinster and collect donations from people. We bring it back in, get it ready for the floor for retail, the funds from that go to St Vincent De Paul and customers are getting a great turn of furniture at very reasonable prices compared to what they would pay buying new furniture.
"People who can't afford the furniture, we work out vouchers with them and maybe the person is in new accommodation, and they need a table and chairs and a wardrobe, we supply that service for them."
Those donating could be going through a challenging situation themselves and John and team always try to be sensitive to each call out.
"There might be a death in the family, and they are donating furniture and you have to be diplomatic with them and talk to them about where it's going or where they see it going. The next call could be someone downsizing a house and they can't bring it all with them to their new premises."
Navan St Vincent De Paul Furniture also offers a sustainable way of shopping, helping the environment into the bargain according to the Navan man.
"A few years ago, most of this stuff would have gone to landfill, I have been in the furniture business over 30 years, and it would have been broken up and put in skips.
"We have a great team in here. Paul our manager is brilliant at using social media to spread the word about donations. He casts the net and I do the fishing."
John says the store is a physical representation of the community’s spirit of giving.
"You could furnish your house here in St Vincent De Paul in Navan and that's from bric-a-brac to delph, pictures, three-piece suites, tables, beds etc."
"We've had antiques donated and paintings that we have put into White's auctioneers in Dublin. You never know what you are going to find in here, you won't walk out of the place without seeing something you want."
There are many cogs in the machine that make the operation run smoothly allowing the team to help as many people are possible according to John who said:
"I'd like to thank Paul Donnegan our manager for the last three years who is doing a fantastic job and all of our volunteer staff, Tus and CE schemes without all would not be possible to operate this fantastic business. I'd also like to thank our area president, Hannah Clarke, All our SVP conferences in Navan for all of their hard work and dedication and our Regional Team manager, Peter Johnson."
St Vincent De Paul is holding its annual collection in the Town Centre on the 21st and 22nd of December, all donations big or small will be greatly appreciated.