Volunteers defy freeze to feed hundreds of homeless
ORGANISERS of the annual Christmas Day dinner for the homeless and needy say they were humbled by the efforts of the hundreds of volunteers who defied the harsh weather.
Saturday was the 86th year of the annual meal organised by the Knights of Columbanus.
Organisers had expected record numbers this year; however due to the freezing conditions, the numbers who sat down to dinner were down slightly.
Extra transport was laid on to ferry volunteers and dinner guests to the RDS in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, on account of the treacherous weather conditions on Christmas Day. In total, 450 people sat down to a three-course dinner -- down from 500 last year.
The meal consisted of soup, breast of chicken and ham with all the trimmings, Christmas pudding and custard. Each guest was then presented with a takeaway present of a "goodie bag" filled with food products, tinned goods and household items worth more than €100.
More than 22,000 items were donated by about 30 companies for the goodie bags -- including 1,400 toothbrushes and 960 combs.
Chairman Pat Costello said: "We were absolutely delighted that all our volunteers made it on the day, despite the awful weather. We had a contingency plan in place just in case there were huge numbers unable to travel, but people made a massive effort to make it. We are truly humbled by them.
"The need for this event was particularly acute this year with the numbers of people losing their jobs, other families suffering severe financial difficulties amid the very harsh winter conditions rarely experienced and finally the depressing economic outlook for the country.
"Christmas Day can be very lonely for some, especially when there are no meals on wheels or public transport services operational," he added.
Among the guests were the Lord Mayor of Dublin Cllr Gerry Breen and Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin.
Among the volunteers was celebrity solicitor Gerald Keane, who said: "It's good to do something like this. I've met some great people today. You don't really see what goes in to organising something like this until you take part."
Meanwhile, families have been asked to donate their unwanted Christmas gifts to help the homeless next year. Staff at St Mary's Pro Cathedral will give them to Crosscare, who will distribute them to the less-well off throughout 2011, and use them as presents next year.