Dublin woman working tirelessly to feed the vulnerable this Christmas

ireland
Dublin Woman Working Tirelessly To Feed The Vulnerable This Christmas
Margaret Brown was inundated with requests to organise a Christmas Day celebration in line with Covid-19 restrictions.
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Sarah Slater

It is going to be a very different Christmas for the first time in 34 years for a mother of one who organises dinners for people living alone, in difficult financial straits or homeless.

Margaret Brown, from Sandycove in Dublin, has been organising a festive feast since 1986 after seeing people at a scout hall, eating lumpy soup and cold meat huddled around a gas fired heater in a bid to keep warm.

Mrs Brown, whose only child is married and living in Thailand, knows how hard it is going to be for everyone this year due to Covid-19 restrictions. She admitted that she did not think the Christmas dinners that she provides with the help of numerous volunteers would go ahead.

The determined Dublin woman is herself in the vulnerable age group, but so determined is she that people have to be fed, she does not want to let people down.

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After hundreds of people started contacting her in early September about the normal Christmas Day Dinner which usually attracts up to 300 people at Blackrock Rugby Club, Mrs Brown had to do a rethink.

Now, she has organised that 200 take-away dinners, after spaces filled up very quickly, will be cooked on Christmas Day under strict adherence to guidelines.

With the sheer volume of phone calls I was receiving pleading with me to somehow organise a celebration meal I had to do something.

“So, so many people are disappointed that the normal Christmas dinner is not being held and it has been a big worry for me. What is planned is definitely a first after all these years and hopefully it will be the last time as no-one wants a Covid induced lifestyle,” she said.

“I honestly thought that it would be too difficult to organise the Christmas dinner party due to Covid-19 restrictions but with the sheer volume of phone calls I was receiving pleading with me to somehow organise a celebration meal I had to do something. But I genuinely thought it couldn’t be done.”

Mrs Brown revealed that after a lot of consideration and ideas shared with the annual volunteers who help her out, it was decided that full four-course take-away dinners would work.

Tradition of kindness

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“Irish people are traditionally so kind to the lonely, isolated, in financial need or living on the streets but the public are not so inclined to have individuals in their homes this Christmas and that’s fully understandable.

“I do worry for their mental health and needs without any or little social interaction as many have been stuck at home since Covid-19 hit our shores in March.

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“However, this means that so many will be on their own. But from 11am and in 15 minute intervals people will be able to call to Blackrock Rugby Club and receive soup, a full Christmas turkey dinner, mince pie, pudding, cake and tea or coffee.”

Mrs Brown said that everyone arriving at the Club will have to sanitise, be given gloves to wear, a mask, and social distancing will be followed as people enter the building and by those working there.

Having worked all over the world in catering and hotel management and for a long time for Jury’s Hotel Group, starting the Christmas endeavour came to Mrs Brown as a natural thing to do.

“I’ll keep doing these dinners for as long as I’m physically able or healthy enough to do so. We can always do with more volunteers.”

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