By David Hennessy
St. Joseph’s GAA Club in London raised in excess of £3,000 for Ealing Soup Kitchen and Ealing Foodbank by running 500km at the weekend, smashing their target of £2,000.
Members and former members of the club joined together to run 500km in aid of the charities and would run far in excess of this goal, running closer to 750km.
Andrew McLeay, Manager of Ealing Soup Kitchen told The Irish World: “It’s a real breath of fresh air to be honest because I was thinking to myself, ‘The donations have stopped now, are we going to be able to continue doing what we’re doing?’
“This is amazing. This will last us quite a bit. That’s a real breath of fresh air for us.
“It was really cool because on Twitter there were all these faces popping up saying, ‘I’ve done my 5k’, loads of families and kids, some of the people who played, ex-members. I thought, ‘That’s a nice community spirit’. Some of them now live in different parts of the world. That’s amazing that they’re still coming together for us and the foodbank.
“I’m looking at it as a stunned observer, thinking, ‘Awesome. Wow, that’s so cool’.”
Ealing Soup Kitchen continue to do their good work and have found even more people in need during this crisis.
“We’ve expanded our service since we last talked. We’re doing a home delivery service now. That involves driving around the borough, outside the borough too. It’s harder because we’re spending so much more money now. We didn’t have to spend so much because we had secured funds. Now no one knows what’s going on, it’s harder to fundraise.
“Now we’re having to pay for petrol, PPE, food is more expensive. Because we’ve expanded our services to anyone whose vulnerable, we’re also having to pay for things like baby stuff. I didn’t realise how much baby stuff costs. There’s loads of hidden things that we’re having to pay for.”
Andrew has said before that before government promises, homeless people have been left on the streets throughout the crisis.
“Some have remained on the streets. Some of them got into hostels and they have been subsequently kicked out. I don’t know why that is. I imagine it’s because they drink or whatever but you don’t put them in there because they’re ideal citizens, you put them in there to save them from Covid. If you’re going to kick them out, you may as well not have taken them in the first place.
“The government says they got 90%. I don’t think that’s true. Every Polish person I’ve referred, none of them have received anything which is bizarre.
“There’s still quite a few out unfortunately. It’s harder. We’re still having to go via the council to do everything. We can’t just put people up ourselves.”
Although there was great concern to do something about the homeless when the crisis started, Andrew believes this enthusiasm has faded.
“At the start there was all this publicity about it. There was lots of drive from people to do stuff. I think now Covid is getting a little bit like Brexit. People are sick of it and they don’t want to hear about it. Because of that people are acting as if things are normal again so the help that we had is gone. We’re now in this limbo. We’re working but we can’t work to capacity. We’re still in the same place as we were before. Other people are moving on but we’re just reluctant to that because we work with the most vulnerable people. It was always going to be a strange time.”
John McNamara, Chairman of St. Joseph’s GAA Club, told The Irish World: “We just wanted to do our bit for the community.
“We set a target of 500km so we’ve exceeded that, we’ve gone to about 750km. That’s a big difference, 50% extra. That will tell you the response we got.
“The underage board were to take a team to Cavan last weekend and because that had to be cancelled because of the coronavirus, we decided to do something for the soup kitchen and foodbank. It was all only thrown together about two weeks ago. It worked out well. Lads who have moved home did a bit. We got a lot of support now, the support was very good.”
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