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.