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Caring Coins founded by Newry women Kerrie Havern and Yvonne Campbell held an official launch in July. The group have been fundraising since the first Covid-19 lockdown but they now are trying to make more people aware of their mission. Already Caring Coins has helped Daisy Hill staff during the lockdown, supported over 350 local families in need as well as raising funds for Fight for Alfie and RoadSafe NI.

The Caring Coins Committee. From left Back: Carla Quinn, PRO; Kerrie Havern, Chairperson and Yvonne Campbell, Treasurer. Front: Roisin Maginn, Secretary; Katie McParland, Vice Secretary and John McWalters, Assistant Treasurer.
The Caring Coins Committee. From left Back: Carla Quinn, PRO; Kerrie Havern, Chairperson and Yvonne Campbell, Treasurer. Front: Roisin Maginn, Secretary; Katie McParland, Vice Secretary and John McWalters, Assistant Treasurer.

In their latest appeal they hope to raise funds to help families in need locally this Christmas.

Havern came up with the name Caring Coins after going through loose change in her home and discovering she had £33. This made her think that there were probably many others with similar 'loose change' in their homes, most likely that they didn't even realise they had. A Caring Coins Facebook page was created and fundraising began in earnest.

Explaining the beginning Havern says "The first pandemic, because everybody was so frightened, we put a big bucket at my front door and filled it full of sterile water and then people came on their allotted trips, they were allowed six miles or whatever and they were using their trip out of the house to come and give us their change.

"We were getting people from everywhere. There was a lady came from the far side of Warrenpoint near Burren and she hadn't seen anybody in ages because her son had Downs Syndrome - he was high dependency. This lady herself was elderly and her son was an older man. We stood and we were talking to her, and you could see a bit of of life back in her, having a conversation and someone to talk to, and by all means it felt the same for me having people call. We were keeping our distance. They'd ring the bell. I'd open the door, put out the bucket. They'd stand back while I did that, then I'd stand back and they put their money in. I'd take a photo and then we'd have a wee chit-chat. So it was really helping, all around if you get me."

Initially they raised funds to provide essentials for Daisy Hill Hospital A&E Department staff who had been re-deployed to Craigavon Hospital, in many cases having to isolate from their families at the time. £1300 was raised in their first fundraiser helping to buy shampoos, conditioners, tampons, deodorants, hand sanitisers, creams, bath bombs, sweets and bottles of water. They also purchased two coffee machines and an Alexa to provide a bit of music for the staff.

Havern explains "The girls couldn't even bring their handbags into work, if they needed something out of the bag it wasn't there. If the boys got thrown up on it wasn't just a simple case of nipping down to their locker and getting a change of clothes, because they weren't allowed anything in with them so their mental health we felt was really taking  a beating, on top of being redeployed to Craigavon for a start. - The whole department, away from your family, isolated and then you can't even take your handbag in!

"We decided there and then the evening when I found the loose change that we were going to do something about it."

Caring Coins has also delivered over 250 'Caring for our Carers' pampering packs to several Daisy Hill Hospital Departments, packs that staff take home with wine/ beer, bath bomb, stress ball, candle, angel stone, lip balm, feet and hand masks etc.

Both women found that playing a part in helping out NHS staff that were stretched to the limit was a lot more emotional than they had anticipated, found themselves quite choked up afterwards and were unsure if they wanted to continue or not.

It was heading towards Christmas and they saw that a local fundraiser Gerard Magee had worked with 50 families that needed help for Christmas. Havern has an autistic son and she could associate with their difficulties as she had returned from County Mayo to get help for her son.

"When we moved home I had Finn re-diagnosed and we got very very little Government support and we heavily relied on help from St Vincent DePaul, especially that Christmas. So when I was watching Gerard it was just like listening to someone talking about me a few years ago. So I thought if I can do something ... and Yvonne was the same." says Havern.

They decided to up their game and got in touch with the Confederation of Community Groups in Newry and Cathy McMahon assisted them in properly forming the group. They completed a Circle of Learning Programme as well as First Aid and Child Protection training.

Next came a door to door collection that raised an incredible £28,000

"People came out to help us. People from different villages like Beleeks, Whitecross were messaging asking when were we going out there. The response was phenomenal. From Rathfriland as well we got given off to because we didn't get to go out there. The response was phenomenal. We raised over 28 thousand pound which was turned into toys and food etc." says Havern who explains that in the end it was 350 families they helped Gerard Magee look after.

Kerrie Havern and Yvonne Campbell from Caring Coins receive their Civic Award from former Council Chairperson, Cllr Laura Devlin. Looking on is Cllr Declan Murphy.

Initiatives for Fight For Alfie and RoadSafe NI followed where they asked people to donate cleared out old clothes and they were able to store them in the boxing ring at Fit Club before raising cash from them. A total of £5,500 was raised in just six weeks.

Campbell and Havern found listening to some of the individual stories very difficult which helped them decide that further campaigns would raise funds for existing organisations who could source people in need of help this Christmas but that the people receiving support would remain anonymous to Caring Coins.

Havern said "The reason we're starting this early for Christmas is really down to the mental health of parents, because if you have kids you are already thinking about Christmas. And if you're in the position that you are struggling and going to be struggling, then you're already going to be starting to feel anxious about Christmas. So, if we can step in and get your Christmas is sorted, that means for the next four months, you don't have to worry about that. The whole reason behind it is to take that worry so that parents can be parents without not paying this bill or stretching out this bill so they get what they need."

The group are also sharing skills with Havern already sharing her boxing skills with Bolster Community. Havern comments "If an association or group are running something and they need extra support we are happy to go support them, pat them on the back and leave, without looking for our names put onto it. We know that everybody needs to work tighter as a community for everybody to survive. It's a no brainer, if we can go and help Bolster rather than do something that they're doing, it makes more sense for us all to be sharing our skill sets."

Caring Coins have five families that they have been looking after from last year and they will continue to support them this year. Havern explains "There's only five of them, we know their circumstances, and we trust them. We have actually secured their five sponsors for Christmas. The five families that were under our care have been looked after for Christmas which now leaves us in the position that we will only be taking referrals from our partners."

Presently they are not taking appeals for help themselves, rather anyone that needs help should go through one of their partners.

The group have already received a Civic Award from Newry, Mourne and Down District Council for their charitable work when the Council noted them as "future warriors for mental health"

If you wish to support Caring Coins you can donate through Paypal via their email address or you can ring 074 9182 5523 for more info.

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