Vin­nies punches harder than ever


WHEN it comes to help­ing out our most vul­ner­a­ble, St Vincent de Paul’s Rochester group is lead­ing the charge.

With lit­tle more than a dozen mem­bers, the lo­cal Vin­nies punches above its weight, do­ing ev­ery­thing it can to ease the pain for those do­ing it tough.

‘‘We’ve had peo­ple come to us in tears,’’ lo­cal pres­i­dent Gavin Houli­han said.

‘‘It might be fi­nan­cial. It could be men­tal health is­sues or even fam­ily prob­lems.

‘‘We are not coun­sel­lors, we’re only vol­un­teers. But if we can re­fer them on to get help from a pro­fes­sional, we will.

‘‘We re­cently gave out ham­pers for Christ­mas, and we found out from the schools here that there were a lot of fam­i­lies who needed the help.’’

But de­spite their stren­u­ous ef­forts on the ground through­out the years, the Vin­nies group of­ten goes un­no­ticed.

‘‘We helped a per­son this week who had never even heard of us,’’ Mr Houli­han said.

Lately, Mr Houli­han has no­ticed res­i­dents find­ing it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to keep their heads above wa­ter in the face of bal­loon­ing cost-of-liv­ing pres­sures.

‘‘More peo­ple are strug­gling, par­tic­u­larly be­cause of higher util­ity costs,’’ he said.

‘‘We’re find­ing our­selves help­ing more and more peo­ple out just to pay off their ac­counts.

‘‘We come across a lot of sin­gle mothers and peo­ple with a dis­abil­ity who need help. Our role at Vin­nies is to give these peo­ple a hand up in life and get them on their feet again.’’

The milk price cri­sis which reared its head dur­ing 2016 has added to the work­load for Vin­nies.

And it is some­thing which hit close to home for Mr Houli­han, who owned a dairy farm in Rochester for decades be­fore re­tir­ing sev­eral years ago.

In Oc­to­ber, the lo­cal Vin­nies group teamed up with var­i­ous or­gan­i­sa­tions across Rochester to de­liver a Dairy Farm­ers Big Day Out.

The pur­pose of the day was to help dairy farm­ers for­get their trou­bles, even for just a few hours, with or­gan­is­ers bring­ing along leg­endary AFL coach Kevin Sheedy as a guest speaker.

‘‘To see the looks on the kids faces; them smil­ing as they get their faces painted — that made me re­ally proud,’’ Mr Houli­han said.

‘‘That (event) is prob­a­bly the big­gest project we’ve done, and to know those fam­i­lies have for­got­ten their trou­bles — even if it’s just for a day — makes it all worth it.’’

As part of the oc­ca­sion, Vin­nies and its fel­low or­gan­is­ers in­vited 200 dairy farm­ers within a 30km ra­dius of Rochester who were Mur­ray Goul­burn or Fon­terra sup­pli­ers.

All fam­i­lies — even those who could not make it on the day — shared in $42,000 made avail­able through Vin­nies.

Now or­gan­is­ers in­tend to host a sim­i­lar so­cial event in early 2017, which will be open to farm­ers and the wider com­mu­nity.

It’s all in a day’s work for peo­ple such as Mr Houli­han, who is call­ing on the com­mu­nity to con­tinue with its gen­eros­ity through­out the new year.

He is also urg­ing any­one in­ter­ested in be­com­ing a mem­ber to take the leap of faith.

‘‘It’s re­ward­ing work, and ev­ery now and then you get a thank you,’’ he said.

‘‘And you don’t have to be Catholic; it’s just if you want to help out.’’

To find out more about the Vin­nies group in Rochester, phone 5484 3584.

St Vincent de Paul Rochester pres­i­dent Gavin Houli­han be­lieves more Rochester fam­i­lies are find­ing it harder to make ends meet.

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