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SEVEN communities in Kilkenny, four in the city, and another in South Carlow gave out in excess of E500,000 to savers last week as part of a hugely successful penny bank saving drive that has put a stop to unscrupulous moneylenders preying on families trying to make ends meet in the recession and especially in the run up to Christmas.

SEVEN communities in Kilkenny, four in the city, and another in South Carlow gave out in excess of E500,000 to savers last week as part of a hugely successful penny bank saving drive that has put a stop to unscrupulous moneylenders preying on families trying to make ends meet in the recession and especially in the run up to Christmas.

Long time volunteer in the Butts, Kilkenny city, Teasie Brennan said it was heartening to see hundreds of people from the city come to St Canice’s parish centre to collect their savings. “Most of all I am extremely happy that we kept the moneylenders out of the Butts,” she said.

Pat McAuley, chairman of the Butts Savings Bank Committee was another very pleased by the huge turnout and the success of the scheme started five years ago and now a flagship for other communities in the region. “As you can see we have an even bigger turn-out than last year. We have more savers, more members and hopefully next year, our sixth year, will be even better,” he said.

David Barry, treasurer of committee said it was heartening to see so many people become regular savers and come to save even in the early part of the year when the weather was extremely cold. He was delighted to confirm there had been no drop in the amount being saved and said that in bad times, people did save,

The Butts Community Safety Bank was established five years ago and was the first of the eight community savings banks now operating in Carlow and Kilkenny. It was followed one month later by the second bank to be established in Newpark Close Family Resource Centre, Kilkenny. Last week it handed back a six figure sum in savings to local families and children. It now has more than 300 members with nearly half of those being children.

Five years ago this year the Community Savings Bank pilot was launched following a joint meeting with Sheila Donnelly, Manager Newpark Family Resource Centre; Fr McGrath Centre manager Stephen Murphy; members of the Board of the Fr. McGrath Centre; former and current directors of St. Canice’s Credit Union; Michael Sanders of MABS; Michael Walsh, Teasie Brennan and Marius Cassidy. It was a joint effort to respond to the growing problem of high interest charging money lending agencies operating in working class community areas. and it has been a huge success.

The Credit Union members played a key role in supporting and getting each of the eight community banks off the ground and still are actively involved in supporting volunteers develop and expand this valuable community and family service.

Volunteers now run the community savings schemes in the Butts, Newpark Close, Bishop Birch Place, Hebron Park (Happe House), Urlingford (The Mill) and Callan (Droichead) Family Resource Centres along with Freshford and Bagenalstown FRC.

Pat McAuley thanked the Fr. McGrath Centre, whose support for the Butts Savings Bank made it possible. And he paid tribute to the local voluntary tellers who give up their free time every Thursday night for 48 weeks every year to make the project possible: David Barry (treasurer), Anne Marie Clifford, Trish and Irene King, Michelle McEvoy (Byrne), Teasie Brennan, Joe O’ Grady and Carmel Joyce.

Pat also thanked the former and current St. Canice’s Credit Union directors for the role they played in helping start these community projects and the voluntary time they give up each year to supporting their continuing development. He also thanked the local family and child members of the Butts Bank and reminded them they would reopen for savings on the first Thursday of the new year at 6.30pm in the Fr. McGrath Centre.

Eleanor Doyle, the co-coordinator of Contact had a stand at the event to encourage people to get involved in the organisation. She stressed the importance of social contact among those who live alone or are elderly.