Volunteers bring food, warmth and a little Christmas love to the homeless
A BABY aged three weeks was among the hundreds of guests at the annual Christmas Day dinner for the homeless and needy.
Patrick John, tucked up warmly in his teddy-bear suit, sat nestled in the arms of his mother Margaret and father Billy Kiely throughout the festivities at the RDS in Dublin.
"We are enjoying the dinner. We come here every year," said the mother of three from Dublin.
Margaret (30) said the family were now living in temporary accommodation provided by the Depaul Trust in Dublin.
But in previous years she has feared for her safety as she braved the chilly winter streets to sleep rough at night.
"It is very hard," she said. "I'd know a good few of the people here but there are a lot more faces that I wouldn't know now, new faces. It is nice for people that have nowhere to come."
Margaret said that she and her family were looked after well but would eventually like permanent accommodation for themselves and their baby.
Their wait for a permanent home, she said, was "too long".
More than 500 guests enjoyed a traditional sit-down Christmas Day dinner at the 88th annual meal, which is organised through the Knights of Columbanus and takes place at the RDS in Ballsbridge.
A further 1,500 takeaway dinners were served up by the team of 300 volunteer servers and chefs, including Patsy McGuirk of Bon Appetit restaurant .
The meals were delivered through various charities, including St Vincent de Paul, Focus Ireland, Simon Community and Alone, as well as Dublin City Council.
Two thousand goody bags of donated products are also handed out to provide an evening meal, including sandwiches and crisps, as well as scarves to help keep warm.
Many of those who attended the meal were collected by the free bus shuttle service from pick-up points, such as the Mansion House and under Clerys clock.
"We noticed more people individually making their way here this year," said Adrian King, the chairman of the Christmas Day dinner committee.
Organisers also received an email from one of their usual volunteers, actress Brenda Fricker, who is currently in Alaska. She wished them well and apologised for missing the event this year.
The archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, came straight from Mass at the Pro-cathedral to meet those who were attending the dinner.
He said: "There are a lot of younger people out on the streets now. There are a lot of people who seem to not have the money to go to a hostel, which is a problem.
"There is a baby here as well. You hope the baby will be looked after. At Christmas, it is very striking."
Dr Martin said he told the congregation of Mass-goers yesterday that people have to "push the Government to go in the right direction about child welfare and poverty".
Shelley Smith from Arklow, Co Wicklow, and her mother Delores had signed up to volunteer at the homeless dinner.
She said: "We wanted to do something instead of sitting at home all day.
"I really enjoyed it. There should be an event like this for people every month – not just at Christmas."