Offaly mother struggling for food 'ashamed' to ask for help
An Offaly mother has said she felt "ashamed" after telling her child not to admit to having no breakfast going to school in a heartbreaking appeal for help.
The mother, who lives in the Tullamore area, wrote to poverty campaigner Ken Smollen this week to ask for "just a little bit of food" having seen him collecting donated food from a nearby supermarket.
The Ken Smollen Food Appeal is well known around Offaly and further afield with people donating non-perishable food to stations set up at shops around the county.
In the woman's heartbreaking note to Ken, she said, "I saw you last week putting the food into the van outside the supermarket where you have your trolley. I suppose I'm one of the people that’s embarrassed to look for help but deep down I know that I do need it."
"Last week I didn’t have enough money to let my child take part in a school activity. I don’t know where they expect us to get money for these things. I'm ashamed to say that I've told my child not to admit having no breakfast a few times," she continued.
The desperate woman said that when she saw Ken putting food into his van, it made her cry. "I was going to ring you a few months ago but just couldn’t do it," she wrote.
The mother agonised over sending her initial message to Ken Smollen, saying, "I just kept telling myself to press the send button but you have no idea how hard it is because then someone will know how things are for us."
"I really feel alone and that nobody cares. My family live close by but I could never tell any of them because they already think I'm a failure," she continued.
The woman signed off her message by saying, "Please could I ask for just a little bit of food as it would help us a lot, but if you don’t have time I really do understand.”
Ken Smollen told the Offaly Express that he visited the woman on Monday evening with food supplies. He said that the contact was "the sixth new call that day."
"New calls had really slowed down over the last few weeks and I presumed that most of the people who were prepared to ask for help had done so. I know that there are thousands more out there in similar situations but are too embarrassed or feel ashamed to come forward," he added.
"We're working on a plan with leaflets and door knocking just to let people know that there is help available and that everything will be totally confidential," he concluded.
Ken Smollen regularly traverses Offaly and the Midlands late at night delivering food to hard-pressed families who feel they can no longer manage without his help.
He is also establishing a new Family Rescue Teams project which will see groups of volunteers from across the county donating bread, ham, cheese and butter on a selected day every month to make fresh sandwiches.
"Hopefully we'll get enough teams that will enable me to get fresh food like that to the families that I call to every day," Ken commented.
"We have a meeting for everyone that's interested in getting involved with the Family Rescue Teams on Wednesday, July 4, at 8pm in The Central Hotel, Main Street, Tullamore, and all are welcome to come along," Ken told the Offaly Express.
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