Cork Penny Dinners gets go ahead for car park Christmas dinner

ireland
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Olivia Kelleher

'The Little Miracle on Hanover Street' in Cork has become a reality after an area soup kitchen which provides hot meals to the homeless was promised the use of an underground car park to feed 200 people on Christmas day.

Caitriona Twomey, who is the powerhouse behind Cork Penny Dinners, was exploring the possibilities for dining on Christmas day.

Unfortunately their small premises on Hanover Street is not suitable for the big occasion arising out of Covid restrictions.

Initially, there were discussions about pods or tents being erected by the Army. However, now the underground car park next door has been made available for the homeless, they can enjoy a socially distanced celebration.

A festive meal with all the trimmings will be donated courtesy of the River Lee Hotel.

Ms Twomey says the car park is the fulfilment of a dream because she was wracking her brains trying to figure out what to do for her regulars on Christmas day.

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"It is absolutely brilliant. We will be able to feed 200 people. We will have music and Santa from the Polar Express in Kent Station. As usual Michael Turtle of Executive Car Hire will drive people in and home.

"Griffin's garden centre have got on board and they will decorate the car park. It will be a real Winter Wonderland."

The demand on our services this year is phenomenal. People are really anxious, petrified and worried this year.

Ms Twomey says in the run up to Christmas regular users of Penny Dinners, who haven't been able to dine indoors since March, will again receive their meals at a larger premises on Grand Parade.

Deep South pub are making their facilities available with Caitriona appealing to area businesses to take turns giving them meals on individual days.

"It would really free us up to do other things as the demand on our services this year is phenomenal. People are really anxious, petrified and worried this year."

Ms Twomey, whose service received a boost when a masked Roy Keane popped in last week, says that it has been a terribly difficult year for service users.

She says the homeless need joy and hope everyday not just on Christmas day.

Christmas donations

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She is appealing to the public to donate pop up tents and sleeping bags to Penny Dinners in the coming weeks. She is also in the market for new toys and for items for Christmas Hampers which are delivered through the city and county.

"It does need to be a new toy. Every effort needs to be made because no child wants an old toy at Christmas."

Caitriona is very concious of the Covid-19 restrictions and every effort will be made to make the festive meal safe.

The Penny Dinners service is not only about providing a meal. It gives the vulnerable and needy a warm comfortable place to eat and company to fill their often dark days on the street.

Caitriona admits to feeling heartbroken at seeing the very obvious decline in the homeless community since the pandemic changed the way we live our lives.

"With the lockdown people have to walk around an empty city all day long and fall asleep in the freezing cold as well.

"We have to keep positive and things rolling out because if they (service users) see us worried or fearful they become worried and fearful. We can see if people aren't doing well."

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