The soup kitchen charity, Cork Penny Dinners, which feeds almost 2,000 people a week, issued a heartfelt thank you last night to the countless volunteers who were involved in the TV makeover of its once-cramped city centre premises.
Celebrity hotelier Francis Brennan, who has spent the last five weeks filming the project for his At Your Service Christmas Day special, was on Little Hanover St yesterday for the big unveiling.
Mr Brennan said the response from the tradesmen and the public had been incredible, and they had all helped bring Penny Dinners’ premises into the 21st century.
“Cork was fantastic. The people of Cork supported us beyond belief,” he said. “The old building was stuck back in the 1940s. Even the floor was squishy, it went up and down when you walked on it.
“But the new building now is just so lovely. The kitchen is fully modernised. There’s a 1,000 years of a difference.”
The narrow, cramped kitchen was replaced with a new state-of-the-art industrial kitchen and walk-in cold room, the dining area has been overhauled and repainted, new floors have been laid, a new roof was built, and the entire Little Hanover St building has been insulated.
Charity spokeswoman Catriona Twomey, who kept the charity running from temporary premises over the last five weeks, saw the finished building for the first time yesterday.
“What’s here today is the culmination of real community spirit. It was a labour of love for all the guys involved,” she said.
“They were working long hours, and they were dog tired, but it didn’t seem to bother them. They just wanted it perfect. This is absolutely state of the art.
“A lot of people help each other here in Cork, but I think this was the one time when everybody got to know each other because they were helping the one organisation.”
Cancer survivor Philip McCoy, from Whitegate, Co Cork, who is out of work and who visits Penny Dinners almost daily, was one of the first people through the doors of the revamped premises yesterday.
“We managed with the old facilities. We made do. The size of the dining room was a problem because of the demand for its services, as austerity took hold,” he said.
“I’m really looking forward to the new facilities because they were badly needed.”
He said Penny Dinners has played an important part in his life, and in his recovery from cancer. “It’s been wonderful for my recuperation because it gives structure to my day, I have somewhere to come and get a nourishing meal, which my surgeons and doctors said I must get. But it’s more than a hot meal — it’s somewhere to come and meet my friends.”
Mr Brennan said he and his team were delighted to have played a role in helping a wonderful charity, which can trace its roots back to Famine times.