WATCH: 'Always there to lend a hand'; Cork Penny Dinners volunteers sing to keep their spirits up as they pack hundreds of hampers

WATCH: 'Always there to lend a hand'; Cork Penny Dinners volunteers sing to keep their spirits up as they pack hundreds of hampers
Caitríona Twomey of Penny Dinners Cork marking food hamper boxes which were filled by Penny Dinners volunteers for individuals and families who are struggling in the city and county pictured at the St. Vincent's Hurling & Football Club clubhouse in Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.

Up to 1,000 food hampers a week are being prepared and delivered by Penny Dinners to people struggling to survive during the Covid-19 lockdown in Cork.

Coordinator Caitriona Twomey says it is "crazy" the number of requests the charity is receiving from all kinds of people, from out-of-work bar staff to cleaners.

“It has never been like this before. We are very, very, very busy.” 

The charity is operating from 7am to 10.30pm seven days a week, putting together hampers at St Vincent’s GAA Club on Blarney Road and running a hot food collection service at the Penny Dinners hub on Little Hanover Street, while also running a drop-off service through the city on bikes.

Caitriona said they are running an efficient and streamlined operation at the moment to cope with the demand.

Penny Dinners Cork volunteers packing food hampers for individuals and families who are struggling in the city and county pictured at the St. Vincent's Hurling & Football Club clubhouse in Cork. Included are Caitríona Twomey of Penny Dinners and Peter Brine, bar manager at the clubhouse.Picture Denis Minihane.
Penny Dinners Cork volunteers packing food hampers for individuals and families who are struggling in the city and county pictured at the St. Vincent's Hurling & Football Club clubhouse in Cork. Included are Caitríona Twomey of Penny Dinners and Peter Brine, bar manager at the clubhouse.Picture Denis Minihane.

“We have volunteers up at St Vincent's, putting together hampers which are delivered by drivers who are allotted a certain part of the city, for example, East Cork, Ballincollig, Northside or Southside. 

"We are also putting together hampers at the hub which are delivered by more drivers and by the guards.” 

While demand and donations have increased, Ms Twomey said more donations are needed to meet the increased requests coming to their door.

Tommy McGreevy was among the Penny Dinners Cork volunteers packing food hampers for individuals and families who are struggling in the city and county which took place at the St. Vincent's Hurling & Football Club clubhouse in Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.
Tommy McGreevy was among the Penny Dinners Cork volunteers packing food hampers for individuals and families who are struggling in the city and county which took place at the St. Vincent's Hurling & Football Club clubhouse in Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.

“It is a crisis and we will deal with it the way it should be dealt with. The demand is huge and food is badly needed. Being short on food is a big hurt.” 

Caitriona appealed to the public for donations in order to be able to keep those in need fed.

“We need staples. Things like cereals, porridge, pasta, rice, tea, coffee, sugar, soups, butter, milk, bread, pot noodles and cans of beans.” 

Volunteers are shopping constantly at wholefoods suppliers to keep up with demand.

As well as hampers and the hot food collection service at the Penny Dinners hub, Caitriona described the night run they do seven days a week.

Penny Dinners Cork volunteers Tomas Kalinauskas (nearest) along with Conor Flynn, Don O'Sullivan and Dave Feeney were among the group packing food hampers for individuals and families who are struggling in the city and county pictured at the St. Vincent's Hurling & Football Club clubhouse in Cork as they put some of the hampers in a van. Picture Denis Minihane.
Penny Dinners Cork volunteers Tomas Kalinauskas (nearest) along with Conor Flynn, Don O'Sullivan and Dave Feeney were among the group packing food hampers for individuals and families who are struggling in the city and county pictured at the St. Vincent's Hurling & Football Club clubhouse in Cork as they put some of the hampers in a van. Picture Denis Minihane.

“We have push bikes with people in high-vis and a van following them and they take the food down all the side alleys and give to those who need it.” 

They started with just 30 meals being given out and now there is up to 85. They also give out sleeping bags, socks and gloves to people.

“We have come across groups of people huddled together for warmth and we give them things to stay warm.” 

The night run has become very important and people are now waiting for the food to arrive each evening.

“It is hard to see people depending on the food and waiting for us to come. It is not nice to see, they can’t thank us enough. They would be lost without us.” 

Caitriona said at the moment the organisation is spending a fortune shopping but it has to be done and reiterated that donations would be greatly appreciated.

“We are all in this together and the more we have the quicker we can get it out.” 

Taking a moment to acknowledge the work of the Penny Dinner volunteers, Caitriona said they were incredible.

Peter Brine, bar manager at the clubhouse, joined Penny Dinners Cork volunteers in packing food hampers for individuals and families who are struggling in the city and county which took place at the St. Vincent's Hurling & Football Club clubhouse in Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.
Peter Brine, bar manager at the clubhouse, joined Penny Dinners Cork volunteers in packing food hampers for individuals and families who are struggling in the city and county which took place at the St. Vincent's Hurling & Football Club clubhouse in Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.

“We have a strong experienced team and they are working all hours helping people. It is hard there is more to be done with less people, but they are brilliant.”

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