IN the bowels of the St Vincent de Paul headquarters in Dublin's inner city, a vast Christmas enterprise is slowly unfolding.
In an underground basement, the fruits of the year-long work by the country's largest, voluntary charitable organisation are laid out.
It's an Aladdin's cave of assorted goods given by private and business donors for the work that is carried out by the SVP, a charity that never takes a break.
There are shelves full of donated fuel logs, boxes of heavy-duty shopping bags (Centra handed over 50,000), toys, books, records, clothes and even a secure facility to examine more expensive items that have been donated – or left to the charity in wills.
The SVP once got €10,000 from the sale of a privately donated Robert Ballagh painting, €3,000 for a 15th Century goblet and €800 for a first edition of the book 'Vanishing Dublin'.
Elsewhere, a truckload of bags has been emptied into a concrete pen from which 10 staff and volunteers begin a sorting process.
From a conveyor belt, the sorters, wearing protective gloves, take a bag each and study the garments that come tumbling out.
Some go to a pile marked soiled, the rest are directed towards clothes rails for boys, girls, men and women.
A second team of sorters organise the rails according to their destinations across Dublin; at this stage the current needs of the different 'Vincents' shops are taken into account.
According to Carl Deegan, the manager for eight years of this vast clothing warehouse, there is a huge market for these items.
"Five or six years ago, you couldn't give this stuff away. Now they are snapped up and much of it is very good quality."
Much of the material will go to one of the SVP's 40 'Vincents' shops – the brand created for the sale of its collections.
Of course, the most vulnerable will not have to pay for anything – they are given vouchers called 'Vincent's bonds' which can be traded at the shops.
There seems to no limit to people's generosity – in the SVP depot last week were designer jackets, new t-shirts, shoes, shirts with the price-tags still on and even wedding dresses.
Elsewhere in the basement, four students from Belvedere College are busy sifting a lorry-load of toys that has just come in, under the supervision of long-time SVP volunteer John Deegan.
The same quality control process will apply here; no child will be getting a broken toy this Christmas, thanks largely to the people who responded to Ryan Tubridy's 2fm toy appeal.
Volunteers were also busy last week sorting through boxes of vinyl records, books and even unwanted medical equipment such as Zimmer frames that have been donated by the public.
The SVP even on occasion receives the bulky gift of a stairlift – an item that can cost up to €5,000, if installed privately.
"We install the stairlift in a home where the person would otherwise have had no chance of getting one themselves and it can mean someone gets to stay in their own home," says Patricia Carey, the SVP's director of services in the Dublin region.
This year, the Irish Independent has partnered the St Vincent de Paul charity in an appeal to our readers to give generously to those living in difficult circumstances. Your help is vital.
You can help SVP by making a donation online to our Christmas appeal https://www.svp.ie/donate/single-donation-step-1.aspx
1. Send a cheque to SVP, PO Box 1234, Dublin 1, made payable to Society of St. Vincent de Paul National Council
2. Pay direct to Bank of Ireland, Phibsborough, Dublin 7 to St. Vincent De Paul Council of Ireland. A/C Number: 80005599. Sort Code: 90-06-23
3. Call the SVP National Office on 01 8386990
4. Text SVP to 57500 (Terms & Conditions apply)
5. If you prefer to give locally you can send cheques to a regional office. Addresses can be found on www.svp.ie