The adage ‘pay it forward’ reflects upon the goodness of human nature, responding to an individual’s kindness by offering support to those who need it most.
Such a realisation reflects the supportive spirit of Athlone native, Lisa Malone, who has commenced a campaign to provide dinner on Christmas Day to all those who are homeless in Athlone and its immediate environs.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser this week, Lisa, who recently received the prestigious ‘Family Carer of the Year’ accolade, stated that a public meeting aimed at creating awareness of the Christmas Day event was “well attended” with much support for the worthy festive initiative.
“I initially placed a post on the ‘Does Anybody Know’ Facebook page in the hope of receiving support for the Christmas dinner initiative and thankfully, we were in a position to host a positive public meeting in St Kieran’ Community Centre on Friday night.
“Arising from the meeting, we have now established the Helping Hand Facebook page on which the details of the Christmas dinner for the homeless will be regularly updated,” Lisa stated.
Lisa is grateful to the regular support she continuously receives from family members and friends as she cares for her 23 year old son Conor who has Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS ), a debilitating condition which affects the connective tissues of the body and causes complications including chronic pain, fatigue and hypermobility and dislocation of joints.
Alongside caring full-time for Conor, Lisa has fundraised tirelessly to get him the treatment he required abroad, with her son undergoing spinal surgery in Spain in June of this year. She also cares for Conor’s two younger brothers who have additional needs.
“Thankfully, Conor is now doing well following his surgery and his progress gives cause for optimism as we look to the future as a family,” Lisa said.
Upon receiving her ‘Family Carer of the Year’ award last week, the mother of four, said that while sitting at home with her husband she was thinking how blessed she was to live in a comfortable and warm home, particularly with the festive season approaching, and the thought of providing a Christmas dinner for the homeless of Athlone was imagined.
“I was nominated by multiple family members and friends for the ‘Family Carer of the Year’ award, so I wanted to repay the kindness shown to me by offering my support to those in our community who need it most, particularly at Christmas.
“Homelessness is now one of the main issues effecting our society today and here in Athlone, we are not immune to such a problematic situation. As I drive around the town, I notice the prevalence of homelessness and it greatly saddens me that individuals and families are living in such conditions. Given today’s cost of living crisis, families, I believe, are never two wage cheques away from a potential homelessness situation. I am aware of so many families who are struggling from a financial perspective, certainly not ideal as Christmas approaches,” Lisa remarked.
Commending the St Kieran’s Community Centre committee who are wholly supportive of the initiative, Lisa is imploring those who are homeless or on their own this Christmas to make contact with a member of the Helping Hand group.
“We will be providing a full festive dinner in St Kieran’s Community Centre on Christmas Day from 12 noon to 2pm, but with booking essential, those who wish to avail of the meal are advised to make contact with a member of the Helping Hand group as we are hoping that there is a positive response to this homelessness support initiative,” Lisa commented.
Complementing the Christmas dinner for the homeless initiative, Lisa and her Helping Hand colleagues are also receiving donations of festive gifts, toys and food which will be distributed to those who need it most in the community.
“Such donations can be left into St Kieran’s Community Centre and they will be distributed to families within our local community who are in genuine need this Christmas,” Lisa concluded.
Those who wish to avail of the Christmas Day dinner for the homeless in St Kieran’s Community Centre can call or text Lisa 0871440833, Angelina 0899640206, Aisling 0851758866, Eileen 0857204866, Fiona 0892249128 or Deirdre 0857747737.
Lisa and one of her friends have also started a Christmas toy appeal and the core group who are organising the Christmas Day dinner for the homeless are also hopeful of being able to set up a regular soup run in the Athlone area before Christmas.