Pennies Roll in to Cork Charity Feeding Needy Since Famine
The irony for a charity like Cork Penny Dinners is that while the image of soup kitchens is indelibly associated with times of natural and economic disasters, it is in such times that they become more evident and yet more demands are placed upon them.
Founded in the mid-1840s at the height of the Famine by members of the Society of Friends in Cork, Cork Penny Dinners today bucks at least one trend experienced by other charities, namely a fall in funding.
Committee member and Quaker, Florence Harrison, explained that the past 18 months or so had seen the charity’s income rise by as much as 20 per cent as more people became aware of the service it provided and wanted to help out.
“We give them a hot meal but we also do our best to make them happy for an hour or two."
Located in a 100-year-old former warehouse on Little Hanover Street just off Sheares Street in the heart of the Marsh area of Cork, Cork Penny Dinners is entirely dependent on donations, as it receives no State funding.
“We prefer it this way because it means we are less regimented in terms of rules and regulations – we depend solely on donations and we get them from everyone from individuals to companies, everything from €5 to €5,000,” said Ms Harrison.
The charity also benefits from the largesse of many food producers and suppliers in Cork, from the woman in west Cork who donated a free-range pig, to the bakeries and bread shops who make regular donations.
And then over Christmas, the nearby River Lee Hotel has helped out, providing Christmas dinners for three days over the festive season. “There’s almost been an explosion of generosity. A guy rang up last week and offered 200 Christmas puddings, while this farmer from east Cork gave us 30 bags of spuds – that means we can use the money we set aside for potatoes on something else,” Ms Harrison said.
Such generosity is most welcome as Cork Penny Dinners, run by a committee of six, has seen the number of people it serves treble from about 30 people a day five years ago to close to 100 today. At weekends the number can rise to 170 a day.
Last year it served 7,650 hot meals. Committee member Caitríona Twomey says everyone who crosses the threshold gets homemade soup, meat and two veg, dessert and tea or coffee – all prepared by volunteers.
“We got a lot of media attention in the past year and people know we are here.
“We get everyone from long-term people who are homeless or have addictions, to short-term people waiting for social welfare payments to come through, as well as those who just can’t make ends meet.”
Everyone is asked to make a donation, whether it be just 5 cent or 10 cent to allow them the respect of knowing that they’ve paid for their meal, but if somebody can’t afford to pay, they are never refused. No one goes away hungry.
“We give them a hot meal but we also do our best to make them happy for an hour or two. People at least leave here with a smile on their face and no matter what they are facing for the rest of the day, they know they can come back tomorrow and we’ll still be here for them.”
(source: Irish Times)