Frank Dillon David Smyth and Chris Keaney getting ready to deliver dinners.

Mullingar Lions Club help the needy and vulnerable

Mullingar Lions Club continue to offer their services to the needy and vulnerable in whatever form that might take, a spokesperson has confirmed.

“It’s an honour and a privilege for the club to be able to reach out and provide support to so many during this difficult time,” said Frank Dillon. “We’re lucky enough to be in a position to do that and we’re very happy to do it,” he added, emphasising the team effort behind the work.

“Apart from the members Mullingar Lions Club, we have many friends who are involved as drivers and support people. We have a great group we’re calling ‘friends of Mullingar Lions Club’, because that’s what they are.”

Frank had particular thanks for David Smyth Catering and staff: “I want to pay a special tribute to David and his daughters Amy and Emma and his nephew Mark, who provide delicious dinners, and a special thank you to David’s mother, Therese, and his aunt, Peggy, because every Sunday they come down with their delicious almond slices for all the drivers and all the people working. It’s appreciated and we’re grateful for their hospitality.”

The Lions Club also expressed thanks to the many people whose donations make their work possible, and assured anyone who needs help that the club will help in whatever way they can to lighten the burden of the pandemic restrictions.

“You’re not alone, contact us if you are in need,” said Frank.

Mark, Amy, Emma Smyth David Smyth preparing dinners in the kitchen.

Explaining what the club have done since the first lockdown was imposed in 2020, Frank said that they began providing dinners on April 12 and continued each Sunday and bank holiday Monday till the middle of July.

At that point, things were improving and the lockdown had been eased, but when restrictions were tightened again, they resumed activity, and on the five Sundays in November, they provided dinners and other services for those in need.

Working with David Smyth Catering, they averaged between 220 and 230 dinners for people in areas from Killucan, Delvin, Clonmellon and Castlepollard, to Streete, Ballymore, Kilbeggan, Tyrrellspass, Rochfortbridge, Kinnegad, and Mullingar.

Frank said: “We did that in November and continued with our usual service on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and the following Sunday, and then the five Sundays of January, in the same areas.

“It’s mainly to elderly people or people living on their own and feeling a sense of isolation during the pandemic – families also, who might not have someone to look in on them, or would be facing the harshness of the pandemic and financial difficulties.

“We have about 20 drivers available each Sunday to do the runs to the different parts, it takes roughly two hours for each.”

Frank and David Smyth are the project co-ordinators and the names of those requiring help come to them through the various frontline services – nurses and doctors, social workers, gardaí, carers. The Westmeath Community Development Covid committee has also provided support to the Lions Club since the start of the pandemic.

Last year the Christmas Food Appeal that is part of Lions Ireland work, in association with the St Vincent de Paul, took the form of shopping vouchers being sent out to families in need, because of the pandemic restrictions.

“We have a great working relationship with the Vincent de Paul,” said Frank, “and we look forward to continuing to work with them in the future, because it’s great when you can pool your resources.”

The ongoing Household Support Project is almost a decade in existence now, and under it the Lions Club respond to family needs on a year-long basis. It works in a similar manner to the other projects in that the frontline services monitor requests and pass them on to the Lions Club, and it covers a broad spectrum, from such things as the repair of broken windows to food and heating fuel.

The Lions Club began an association with Food Cloud in March, and have food parcels to deliver to families weekly, as the need arises; and under the Westmeath County Council Keep Well campaign, Lions Club volunteers delivered care packages (see story, right) at Christmas.

The club have a GoFundMe page, and all donations or other contributions are appreciated: “They allow us to continue to do these projects and services,” said Frank. “With the pandemic, there’s huge uncertainty, and people can find themselves in difficult situations.

“We also want to convey as special thank you to Mark Irwin, who is very good to the Lions Club. He brought out a single with his colleagues and donated the funds raised from that to Mullingar Lions Club, and we are very appreciative of that.

“All the support has given us great encouragement, and great confidence, since last April, since we started these projects, and we look forward to continuing them and bringing a bit of hope and comfort to people.”