St Vincent de Paul Volunteers Gail Gaudron, Vice President Central Council, Paul Edgar, Clarence President, Bob Harvey, Maclean President and Terry Carlin, Yamba President  meet at St Mary's Church in Macleean.
St Vincent de Paul Volunteers Gail Gaudron, Vice President Central Council, Paul Edgar, Clarence President, Bob Harvey, Maclean President and Terry Carlin, Yamba President meet at St Mary's Church in Macleean. Tim Jarrett

Winter signals challenging times from some

AS TEMPERATURES lower, bills rise and some people can struggle to keep up.

It is with this in mind that St Vincent de Paul has started its winter appeal, to raise money to ensure the work done within the Clarence Valley community can continue.

"The appeal gives us the ability to provide face to face services to assist our friends in need in the community and all money raised from the appeal is spent locally," Central Council vice-president Gail Gaudron said.

The St Vincent de Paul conferences in Grafton, Maclean and Yamba distribute more than $300,000 to the community each year and are run by volunteers who meet with community members twice a week.

The leaders of each conference met in Maclean on Friday and Ms Gaudron emphasised the importance of face to face meetings to maximise the organisation's effectiveness.

"People most often come to us for food but if we can sit down and build trust, we often find there are lots of other things they are going without," she said.

"And once we have that good conversation sometimes there are lots of ways we can help them."

Taking that first step and asking for assistance was hard for many people and Clarence president Paul Edgar said sometimes people just needed a little help to pay a bill.

"We had someone who had thought for several weeks before they came in and they had never asked for help before," he said.

"But they had to or the electricity would be cut off."

Yamba conference president Terry Carlin said he had helped many people who had found themselves in situations they had never been in before, through no fault of their own.

"We have had mums come in after a relationship breakdown who have nowhere to live and have one, two or three kids to look after and all of a sudden their income stream has disappeared," he said.

"They find themselves in totally unfamiliar territory and they call on groups like St Vincent de Paul to give them a hand."

Mr Carlin also highlighted the issue of the "invisible homeless", a growing number of people who were living in cars, at friends' houses or in short-term accommodation.

"They are not sleeping in doorways, they are not sleeping rough on the street but they are sleeping at other people's houses on the couch and then moving to the next person."

St Vincent de Paul is calling for financial contributions and donations of winter clothing and blankets and Mr Carlin added that those who may not be in a position to donate could still help.

"Next time people are thinking about going to a discount place to buy something new, have a look at Vinnies," he said.

"A lot of our funding comes via the Vinnies shops and the more they make the more they can distribute to the conferences."



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