Organising hampers for Alan’s Helping Hands on Sunday, Ollie Kennedy, Sharon, Alan and Amy Devaney, Clare Kelly, Tina Farrell, Colm Yeates, Tadhg Harrington and, Karina Stynes.

Pitching in for Alan’s Helping Hands

Vouchers from pitch and putt competitions have put serious drive behind an idea Mullingar man Alan Devaney came up with to help people struggling to make ends meet at Christmas.

Last year, Alan collected contributions in the area to help out a small number of families he knew were in financial difficulty, and this year, he, Ollie Kennedy and a small team of helpers have provided assistance to 40 households, under the banner of ‘Alan’s Helping Hands’.

Alan, who works at TK Maxx in Mullingar and is secretary at Lough Owel Pitch And Putt Club, had put a post on social media about his plan to help people out, and from that, others offered to help – and some sought assistance.

Seeing that his idea had the potential to grow, Alan approached his friend Ollie to see if he could help. He could and did, and this year they have put food on the table, as well as other essentials, for local people who need them.

On Sunday, Alan, Ollie, family and other volunteers, including Tadhg Harrington (brother of Pádraig) met at the National Learning Network premises in Mullingar, where Ollie works, to sort and bag groceries ahead of delivery this week.

Alan’s Facebook post had been shared where members of the pitch and putt community saw it, and they swung into action to help, which is where Tadhg comes in. Alan explained: “Last year, I put something on the pitch and putt banter page, Tadhg Harrington saw it and got in touch to say he would help out. At the time, he didn’t want his name mentioned; then this year, he and another good player, Suzanne Jordan, have given a massive contribution, helping local families here, even though they’re not local. “And, as Oliver, said, it’s all gone – what they gave, we’ve used it.” What Tadhg and Suzanne did was give Alan gift cards (for Dunnes Stores, or One4All, for example) that they had won in pitch and putt competitions, which are typical prizes in that game.

Seeing how they would be put to good use, Tadhg mentioned it to other people and collected more gift cards, then he and Suzanne, a pupil at his Harrington Golf Academy in Dublin, decided to join forces and agreed to donate any gift cards they won to Alan’s Helping Hands.

They took the endeavour so seriously that they won 19 open tournaments, 11 in a row, this year. The total of their contribution was more than €2000.

Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner on Sunday, Tadhg said his own income is down 20 per cent, as he put so much time into competitions this year.

Alan and Ollie were in two minds about publicising their efforts this year because their means are limited and they can help no more people, for now. But acknowledging that “you need it both ways”, they have an ambition to grow and help more people, and recruit more volunteers.

Ollie said: “Alan’s idea was to try to give a helping hand to families at Christmas; they reached out; Alan responded, then he got us on board to give him a helping hand because it snowballed from four to 40 this year. A person can’t do it on their own, and Alan brought people in to help, and that’s why it’s Alan’s Helping Hands.”

Tadhg said the pitch and putt community is strong and only for that, he wouldn’t have met Alan, or Alan Yeates from the Rochfortbridge club. He is hoping to use that strength to help take Alan’s Helping Hands to the next level, he said on Sunday.

“I’m delighted to be here today (Suzanne couldn’t make it), and I’m delighted to see all the hampers going out, it’s brilliant. What I would hope, with this publicity, and I’m the PRO for Dublin Pitch and Putt, is that next season we might run an event. I’ve said it to Pitch and Putt Ireland, and I’d be hoping other players would see all this and pitch in. Our message would be, and this is why I came down here today, to all pitch and putt players, ‘let’s all stand up and hand in even one voucher’, and if we all did that, Alan would be overrun with vouchers next year.”

The fundraising tournament next year would be at Rochfortbridge, Tadhg said, but a lot remains to be done before that can happen.