Cork charity doubles number of ‘penny’ meals

A CORK charity is serving more than double the number of meals from two years ago and expects to become even busier as the recession continues.

Cork Penny Dinners – established by the Quakers after the Famine – provides hot lunches five days a week to those who are down on their luck.

The operation, which is run out of a building at Little Hanover Street, is manned entirely by volunteers under the control of a multi-denominational committee. It survives thanks to donations.

Judy Wigham, a committee member of the charity for the past 13 years, said a couple of years ago they were serving around 15 people every day.

“That has more than doubled recently and we’re expecting it to get even busier. We are also expecting a big drop in the amount of donations we get because of the economy. Nevertheless, the people of Cork have always been fantastic to us,” Ms Wigham said.

During the summer, numbers can swell to 50 a day.

“That’s because a lot of strangers are passing through at that time of year and get to hear about us,” she said.

The main course doesn’t actually cost a penny but you won’t find a cheaper meal.

Florence Harrison, who is also on the managing committee, said they ask those having the meal to make a token donation of 5 or 10 cent. Added to that, people also get a cup of tea, bread and the occasional biscuit and cake.

Lunch is served every weekday between 11.30am and 12.30pm.

The committee never ask anybody their personal circumstances and don’t turn anybody away, although they have a strict rule against bringing in alcohol.

Patrick, a homeless man, who didn’t want his surname mentioned, said he had been coming to the Little Hanover Street for more than a year.

“I was told about this place at St Francis’s Church. I come five days a week. I’ve made a lot of friends here. I know all the lads. The people who serve the meals are very nice,” Patrick said.

His friend Bill, who said he was 60, said he’d been having the meals for several years.

“I mostly come here for the company. The people who run this are going a fantastic job, especially the way things are going these days,” he said.

Bill said those queuing up for the meals were split roughly between Irish and east Europeans.

* Cork Penny Dinners are holding a fundraising coffee morning at the Victoria Hotel, St Patrick Street, tomorrow between 10am and noon.


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