'We’re seeing many parents who can’t afford to heat their homes and feed their children'

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'We’re Seeing Many Parents Who Can’t Afford To Heat Their Homes And Feed Their Children' 'We’re Seeing Many Parents Who Can’t Afford To Heat Their Homes And Feed Their Children'
Michael Loughman is the founder of Sleep Out Cavan, a group that carries out vital work with help from the Tesco Community Fund.
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Today, across Ireland, food banks and charity groups have become a literal lifesaver for so many.

In recognition of how the work these groups do has never been more important, Tesco is  raising awareness of the great work these causes do in the area of food – and the inspiring people making sure nobody goes hungry in their community – in the newest instalment of their ‘One in a Million’ series.

The series has been created to celebrate 25 years of Tesco Ireland, and to highlight the countless organisations that have been helped by the Tesco Community Fund.

Since 2014, Tesco have donated more than €6 million through the initiative. That money has gone to over 21,000 community projects nationwide - including schools, animal shelters, sports groups, elderly care centres, health organisations and much more.

In the second part of the series, which you can watch in full below, two groups who’ve received donations from Tesco Community Fund speak to renowned broadcaster Hector Ó hEochagáin.

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Clondalkin Helping the Homeless, a Dublin organisation working hard every day to provide essential supports to aid those experiencing and facing homelessness. Their main aim is to help combat homelessness, but they also provide a range of essential services, including food, furniture and clothing donations and more recently, they’ve coordinated regular donation drives in support of Ukrainian refugees.

Also featured in the video is Michael Loughman, founder of Sleep Out Cavan. The group provide clothes, food and temporary accommodation to anyone in need throughout the county. Michael’s work, however, originally began much further from home.

After the death of homeless man Jonathan Corrie in 2014, who was sleeping rough on the city streets, Michael was one of hundreds who took to the streets of Dublin in protest. While there, he met a man who opened his eyes to just how serious homelessness was becoming nationwide.

“We were sleeping out in Dublin that night, in Jonathan’s honour, when I got talking to this guy who it turns out was sleeping on the streets every night – he’d lost his home. He’d lost everything, and he had been a hugely successful businessman only a few years prior. It just opened my eyes to the fact that it could happen to anyone,” Michael recalls.

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“I made him tea while we were chatting and when he reached out for the cup I realised he had no clothes on under his coat. He told me he couldn’t get any, he’d been depending on clothing banks or people on the street to give him something.”

Sleep Out Cavan regular work with local Gardaí to help those in need

Michael was so unnerved by the man’s story that he decided to take action and help others like him. “I decided that night that I would start travelling to Dublin regularly with clothing donations, just small shopping bags of stuff.

"Myself and my wife would go up maybe once every two weeks to do a bit of shopping, we’d bring a couple of bags of clothes at first. Once our neighbours, family and friends found out about it, they were a huge help and donated so many things, so pretty soon we were overwhelmed with bags.

"Once we started having more bags than we could handle, we made contact with one of the big charities that were operating in Dublin and they said they would send a van down to us once a month that we could load up with bags and it worked well, we got a good system going where we were regularly sending hundreds of bags.”

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As word grew about Michael’s work back home in Cavan, however, more local people began seeking out his help. Michael quickly realised they needed a dedicated service of their own, and so Sleep Out Cavan was formed.

The charity now has nine dedicated team members, and has become a go-to for anyone in Cavan who needs help. They’ve steered Sleep Out Cavan through many big changes over the years, including securing their current premises which serve as a shop for donated clothes and, of course, the Covid-19 pandemic. The biggest and toughest challenge they’ve faced, however, is the current cost of living crisis.

“It’s getting worse, I can see that from the figures we have here,” Michael says. “Last year we supplied 2,000 bags of clothes to the charity Feed our Homeless in Dublin – this year we’re already on 1,282, and we’re only in the sixth month of the year.

"Also last year we had 41 people accommodated in Cavan town. This year, we’re up to 45 already. That mightn’t sound like much on the surface, but it’s huge for a small town like Cavan. We also ended 2021 having given out 62 food hampers.

“The requests we’re getting in over the last few weeks have been mostly for fuel, oil, coal, stuff like that. A local mother contacted me the other day because she got in the electricity  bill and she was so distressed. If she paid the bill, she couldn’t pay for heating for the house. So we sent over a load of oil and coal to her, enough to last her the week. That was just needed to tide her over until she gets back on her feet after paying such a high bill. This is the big problem, the bills are coming in so high now that families literally can’t afford to both pay them and put food on the table.”

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The group have been overwhelmed by generosity of local people who donate bags to them.

With demand for their services increasing so rapidly, Michael and the team rely hugely on donations to help keep Sleep Out Cavan afloat. While the local community have been endlessly generous to the group, Michael says it is support from Tesco that has made the biggest difference to them.

“When we first started out, I was doing everything out of my own pocket. The fuel to go to Dublin, all of that. When it came to setting up a premises for our shop, paying the rent and insurance, that’s when we really needed assistance. So to be given financial help through the Tesco Community Fund was fantastic.

"Only for them, we wouldn’t have the premises that we do today. The Community Fund is just brilliant and I’d recommend any charity or community group to look into it. You’re in for a chance to get funds that can help you with absolutely anything you need – your rent, equipment for your club, whatever. It’s brilliant, and even through the pandemic, Tesco still gave us the Community Fund. They were unbelievably generous.”

As well as the obvious financial boost, Michael says the Tesco Community Fund has helped boost the group’s profile; “It was brilliant to go into Tesco and see the Sleep Out Cavan box full of tokens, and to know people were voting for us to win the funding,” Michael explains. “It was hard to believe because we weren’t really known at that stage, word had got out among family, friends and neighbours, but that was it really.

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"Tesco having our name in store on those boxes was almost like advertising for us, it really helped to inform people who we were, what we were all about and how we could help them. So, the Tesco Community Fund has just helped us so much, we couldn’t thank Tesco enough really.”

Rosemary Garth pictured alongside Michael Loughman at the relaunch of the Tesco Community Fund.

Rosemary Garth, Communications Director of Tesco Ireland says; “With household budgets under increasing pressure, the supports we can give to groups through our Community Fund are incredibly important.

We’re proud to have helped such amazing community projects across the country over the last eight years. We know how important Community Fund donations are to local organisations including purchasing sports kits, enabling senior citizen supports, helping to maintain their premises, and supporting the purchase of much-needed equipment at a local level.

"Tesco is 25 years in Ireland this year and with that, we’re delighted to bring the total fund donation to €1 million. It’s humbling to see the outstanding work done by these incredible causes; they are truly one in a million. We hope Tesco customers throughout Ireland will show their support and vote for their local causes in the Tesco Community Fund 2022.”

If you know a group in your area who do great work like Clondalkin Helping Homeless or Sleep Out Cavan, be sure to nominate them for the Tesco Community Fund via the Tesco website.

To find out more, head to www.TescoIreland.ie.

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