'The need was never greater': Cork Penny Dinners struggling to keep up with demand

'The need was never greater': Cork Penny Dinners struggling to keep up with demand

Co-ordinator Caitríona Twomey says Penny Dinners has been supporting people in East Cork for the past eight years, with volunteers bringing hampers to drop centres in places like Youghal and Carrigtwohill.

Cork Penny Dinners says it is struggling to keep up with demand for hampers, with the charity delivering more than 1,000 hampers to people across Cork every week.

The hamper runs are coordinated from Penny Dinners’ Little Hanover Street headquarters, with volunteers distributing hampers across the county.

The Echo travelled with volunteers on a recent run to East Cork to see what a typical trip is like for them.

Co-ordinator Caitríona Twomey says Penny Dinners has been supporting people in East Cork for the past eight years, with volunteers bringing hampers to drop centres in places like Youghal and Carrigtwohill.

It’s already getting dark as volunteers Tomas Kalinauskas and Michael Relihan load up the Cork Penny Dinners van and head out of town, just ahead of the evening traffic, for their regular East Cork run.

First stop is a housing estate on the outskirts of Castlemartyr, where they meet Elizabeth Maddox, who is chair of the Cork Older People’s Council.

Elizabeth is also co-founder of the Castlemartyr Family Carers and Disability Supporters Group, which recently was awarded Pride of Cork.

With Elizabeth is fellow volunteer Mary Geary, who is collecting hampers from Penny Dinners to distribute in Dungourney and Mogeely.

Mary says the hampers will help people who may be struggling and alone.

Each hamper contains almost enough fresh food and provisions to last a fortnight.

Michael and Tomas carry hampers to specified homes in the estate, receiving warm welcomes at each door.

They call to people who may be elderly or who may need a helping hand, and Michael says it’s just great to be able to offer assistance.

Elizabeth is quick to praise Cork Penny Dinners, thanking Tomas and Michael for all of their hard work, and she says that people with disabilities have struggled during the pandemic, and it’s good that Penny Dinners provides the service it does.

“I would like to thank Caitríona Twomey and the Penny Dinners volunteers for all they do, and they don’t just look after Castlemartyr and the surrounding areas, they look after the whole of East Cork.

“I would also like to thank the local community gardaí, who always look after us.”

Elizabeth adds that the Castlemartyr Family Carers and Disability Supporters Group has a collection box for Cork Penny Dinners in Centra in Castlemartyr.

She says people are very good to support it, with all donations helping people in the area.

Ms Twomey says East Cork is not the only part of Cork where the charity is distributing hampers.

“We’re also bringing hampers to North Cork, South Cork, and West Cork, and with over a thousand hampers going out every week, we’re struggling to keep up with demand,” she says.

Back in the city, Penny Dinners serves over 400 meals a day and Ms Twomey says the charity never takes a holiday.

“The need for Cork Penny Dinners was never greater, and because that need doesn’t stop, we don’t stop either.”

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