Standing in a room filled almost floor to ceiling with chocolate certainly puts a strain on a girl’s new year’s resolution.
However, self control is needed because these goodies are destined to be distributed through meals on wheels, food kitchens and food banks to Dublin’s most needy.
This chocolate fantasy room was only a small offshoot of the main sorting room in Clonliffe College, where last week a team of Crosscare volunteers were busy working out the logistics of dealing with an overwhelming response to their Unwanted Gifts Appeal.
Crosscare, the social care agency of the Archdiocese of Dublin, collects the unwanted gifts from the crib at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral after January 6 each year and redistributes them to people using their services.
Last year, they collected four van loads full of gifts. This year, the response was trebled with staff struggling to cope with sorting and storing 12.5 van loads of goods.
”It’s a good complaint to have,” said Michael McDonagh, Crosscare’s senior manager for corporate services, as he surveys a room of cardboard boxes and bin bags filled with a weird and wonderful assortment of unwanted gifts, which offers a little window into people’s lives.
There is a pile of chocolates and biscuits in one corner, boxes marked candles, toys, household, gift sets and toiletries in another.
A quick rummage by The Irish Catholic reveals a toy fire truck, bike, handbags, toaster, kettle, duvet, a jar of Christmas chutney and a microwaveable body pillow!
”We got a phone call from the Pro-Cathedral on St Stephen’s Day saying they already needed us to come and collect the stuff,” Michael said. ”We had a van call down every day from then, whereas we would normally do it in a day in one big run. As we emptied it out, it would fill up again the next day!
”People came from the surrounding counties like Meath, Carlow and Kildare — often with their kids.
”One lady from Carlow came with her five-year-old son and said she thought it was a great idea because it was something nice that her son could get involved in.
”He could choose the toy that he wanted to give the kids who didn’t have anything.
”I think because times are so tight parents are looking at things in that way, trying to teach their kids that you can do more with less and that you can share. It shows kids how lucky they are.”
Demand for Crosscare’s support, advice and hot food in the city increased by approximately 40 per cent over the last 12 months, and they provided 180,000 meals in Dublin last year alone.
These Christmas donations will be distributed as birthday presents to young teenagers in care, clothes and toiletries for men and women in the homeless services, and care packs for the elderly people living alone in Dublin’s north inner city.
The rest will probably be sold in a pop-up second hand shop, following the success of a pilot pop-up shop in Blanchardstown before Christmas which made an incredible €10,000 in one weekend.
”The essence of the initiative is the fact that most of us received much more than we need and just one unwanted gift given back could bring some happiness to others in our community who will be struggling with various difficulties in life in 2012,” said Fr Pat O’Donoghue, who started the Unwanted Gifts Appeal at the Pro-Cathedral in 2006.
”Despite the difficult economic times we are in, we have found that people have been even more considerate since times got tough,” he said.
”I have no idea why the response was so great this year. People are just wonderful and it is a wonderful part of Christmas.”