Celebrating ‘Real Heroes’

Brendan Dempsey - Bia Food

We are really great at celebrating our sporting, musical, artistic, and even our business heroes.

I guess this is easy when they do big things like win important matches, break world records, win gold medals, score big goals, win fights, appear in blockbusting movies, have hit albums, open new companies, win big contracts and create lots of jobs.

We need these heroes as they inspire us and they should be celebrated.

Last week I was really thrilled to see a ‘real hero’ being acknowledged and celebrated.

I first met Brendan Dempsey about two months ago after we had volunteered to do some pro bono work for the Bia Food Initiative, which is an incredible operation designed to take ‘surplus food’ in our retail system and to preserve and maximise the use of this for needy causes.

This food, which would otherwise end up being dumped is being preserved for great use through clever logistics, huge determination and an abundance of goodwill.

Brendan Dempsey, a well know volunteer with Saint Vincent de Paul for over 30 years has been operating his own small scale food distribution operation in his famous ‘clapped out refrigerated van‘ for quite a while now. In many ways his ad-hoc food redistribution service was the inspiration and model for the Bia Food Initiative.

When I met Brendan I first noticed the roguish glint in his eye – you got the sense that this very practical and larger than life character doesn’t stand on ceremony and according to himself he wouldn’t be the most popular man around as he “says it the way he sees it“.

After listening to the other members of the fantastic Bia Food team telling us how the whole scheme works, Brendan brought everything to life by sharing some of his real life stories. Apparently over the last few years it is the ‘new poor‘ who have been most affected and most in need of help. These were quite well off people who crashed badly during the recession and as a result were now broke and in many cases without the money to literally put bread on the table.

He shared one story where a child in one of families he delivered food to, tugged at his trouser leg and asked him “will you be my dad?“. I’m sure Brendan has experienced heart tugging moments like this thousands of times in the last 30 years but this didn’t stop the tears coming to his eyes as he shared the story with me.

We were doing the PR and event support around the official opening of the first Bia Food distribution centre in Cork last week (28th Nov, 2014) where we had speeches by various officials and sponsors. Tanaiste Joan Burton was in attendance at this feel-good event to ‘officially’ open the centre, which is the first of three to be opened. In the next two years similar centres will open in Dublin and Galway.

The little curtain that covered the official plaque to mark the occasion, was pulled back and the name of centre was revealed. It carries the name of a ‘real hero’ Brendan Dempsey, the quiet man who was standing to one side as all the speeches were being made. Needless to say this humble man was mortified and shocked as he clearly knew nothing about this honour.

For once it is fantastic to see a real hero honoured.

Are there others just like Brendan who we need to acknowledge?

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion who offer strategic advice around (CSR) Corporate Social Responsibility from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland


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2 Responses to “Celebrating ‘Real Heroes’”

  1. Caitriona - Wholesome Ireland Says:

    Brilliant Greg. I have followed the Bia story for quite some time. Delighted the real heroes are being honoured.

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