Cork GAA Club instrumental in ensuring Penny Dinners remained a 'lifeline' during lockdown

Cork GAA Club instrumental in ensuring Penny Dinners remained a 'lifeline' during lockdown
Caitriona Twomey, Cork Penny Dinners with Volunteers from St. Vincent's Hurling & Football Club, Cllr Mick Nugent, Peter Brine, Cllr Ken Collins, Derry Falvey, Thomas Gould TD and Tony Sheehan. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

A Cork GAA club has been hailed as a saviour to one of the city’s oldest charities at a time when they were "very very stretched". 

Head of Cork Penny Dinners, Caitriona Twomey, lauded St Vincent’s Hurling & Football Club for offering up their clubhouse during the pandemic as a second hub for volunteers to assemble food hampers for those in need. 

"Without St Vincent’s we couldn’t have become the lifeline that we became for the city," Caitriona told The Echo. "How it started was that some of our volunteers would be members of St Vincent’s Hurling & Football Club and when the virus kicked in we saw the increase fairly lively at Penny Dinners," she explained. 

Cork Penny Dinners Volunteers, David McSweeney and Kevin Connolly. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Cork Penny Dinners Volunteers, David McSweeney and Kevin Connolly. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

"St Vincent’s was offered to us and we took it because we needed the space. 

"It was ideal and we were able to put a fantastic hub up there."

During the lockdown up to 2,000 food hampers a week were being prepared and delivered by Penny Dinners to people in need all over Cork. 

"It was huge," Caitriona said, speaking about the demand on their services. 

"It still is. Just because things look like they’re getting back to normality, for a lot of people they’re not." 

Caitriona said that whilst some people are now returning to work and are no longer in need of their help, the fallout from Covid-19 has meant that "things are actually getting worse for some people". 

Despite the immense challenges people are facing, Caitriona moved to reassure people that Penny Dinners is always there to help and provides a judgment-free service. 

Garda Tony Kelleher and Garda Kevin O'Brien, both Community Policing Anglesea Street.Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Garda Tony Kelleher and Garda Kevin O'Brien, both Community Policing Anglesea Street.Picture: Jim Coughlan.

"We have people ringing looking for food and feel mortified or ashamed to have to contact us but people do it because they know the way we operate is very quick. 

"They can get the hamper and that’s the end of it – it’s very discreet and there is never any judgment cast on anyone,” she said. 

"Sometimes within a half an hour of ringing, a family can get a hamper," Caitriona added. 

With the reopening of St Vincent’s Hurling & Football Club, Cork Penny Dinners will soon be finishing up at the Club and is on the hunt for a new second hub. 

Caitriona paid tribute to the volunteers from Cork Penny Dinners and those at St Vincent’s Hurling & Football Club who rowed in to help assemble hampers at the clubhouse over the past few months. 

"There was only just a handful of them because we were mindful of social distancing. 

"They’re all mountain climbers so they’re strong men and they’re able to go the distance!” 

Cork Penny Dinners Volunteers, Kevin Connolly and Tommy McGreevy. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Cork Penny Dinners Volunteers, Kevin Connolly and Tommy McGreevy. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

She also thanked the Gardaí, Cork City Missing Persons Search and Recovery and the Irish Red Cross for their help in delivering hampers all over Cork and to the general public who have mounted countless food drives in aid of Penny Dinners. 

"We wouldn’t have been able to do this without the public coming on board with us and they did. 

"We didn’t even have to ask. People just offered. 

"They saw what we were doing; they understood it and they decided they would help."

Speaking on behalf of St Vincent’s, Club PRO, Sinn Féin councillor Mick Nugent said the Club was delighted to help Cork Penny Dinners. 

"We’ve supported Penny Dinners in the past through various fundraisers and different things and we were more than happy to support the charity again," he said. 

Peter Brine and Tony Sheehan, both St. Vincent's Hurling & Football Club. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Peter Brine and Tony Sheehan, both St. Vincent's Hurling & Football Club. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

"On behalf of the Club, I would like to thank everyone who organised food drives or supported the food appeal for Cork Penny Dinners in any way. 

"Parishes across the city and county have done incredible work to get hampers out to people in need," he said.

"Cork has shown great community spirit."

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