London Irish Centre begins food drops for vulnerable
Money for services hit by cancellation of fund-raisers
21 March, 2020 — By Dan Carrier
CEO Ellen Ryan, Trustee Mike O’Connor and Well Being manager Ruth Melican
CHARITIES across the borough are beginning this weekend to get to grips with the enormous task they face over coming months to help alleviate the worst effects of the Corona Virus on Camden’s communities.
The Camden Irish Centre, based in Camden Square since 1955, has longed played a leading role in Camden’s Anglo-Irish community.
A cultural and social meeting point for generations, its staff and volunteers are well placed to know who is in most need of their help.
On Friday afternoon, centre trustee Mike O’Connor was making his first of what will be regular food drops for the foreseeable future to centre users.
He picked up a number of grocery bags from the offices of the Irish Elderly Advice Network – a long established charity which operates from inside an office at the Irish Centre – and took them across Camden, Islington, Haringey and Hackney.
He said everyone involved with the charity had thrown themselves into the relief effort – but as the task ahead becomes clearer, he wanted to see more help from central government.
“The government’s strategy so far has been about mitigating the effects on business,” he said. “Now it has to switch attention to aid providers. Charities can do a large amount. We have to mobilise this resource. There is an army of millions of volunteers out there – and at the moment it feels like there is a gap in the strategy. They have been laying out how they will support business, and now we want to see them support the charities.”
“Organisations like ours should be and can be at the heart of responding to this crisis. I don’t feel I have seen enough yet.”
Adding to the size of their task, the centre has had to cancel lucrative events that pay for their usual outreach and charity work.
St Patricks Day parties, due to take place earlier this week, were cancelled – knocking a seizable hole in projected income.
One Direction’s Niall Horan was due to host a sold out benefit night in a fortnight’s time; thist too has fallen victim to the coronavirus spread, costing the centre of somewhere near £100,000 in donations.
Added to this drastic financial situation, which has developed with such frightening rapidity, the centre finds itself with increased costs to cover.
Chief executive Ellen Ryan, who has been in the role for five weeks, told the New Journal how despite the challenges the centre faced, its aid programme had already started.
She said: “We are doing our first food drops for the very vulnerable and the very elderly. The packets contain milk, bread, sugar, and some other basic provisions. We are doing our best to respond to this crisis and doing this by provisioning basic needs, so the food packaging, next week we aim to get 45 hot meals out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday to older people who live at home, and the following week we’ll start taking some library books out. At the back end my staff can’t deliver advice face to face so they are all on the telephone instead.”
Online and telephone contact is playing a role. They are offering a befriending service through their website, making sure the absence of usual, every day social contact isn’t missed too much.
Ms Ryan added: “People who are on their own, perhaps lonely – we are calling them a couple of times a day to keep in touch with them. That’s the first stages of our intervention now and we hope to build on this.”
Ms Ryan added that the centre had been supported by everyone regardless of their means, from larger sums to people popping envelopes through the door with £2 in them.
She said: “We have put out an appeal and we are really grateful for the money we have got so far. We want to be able to give some one a hot meal once or twice a week and we can’t do that with out peoples support.”