Saturday 27 December 2014

Giving the gift of time

Áilín Quinlan talks to some of the volunteers, who, in the midst of the all-consuming Irish Christmas, sacrifice their own time to make Christmas Day a little bit better for others

ALONE volunteer Michael Hodgins.
Liz Griffin in the Simon Community kitchen with other volunteers.
Cathriona Twomey of the Cork Penny Dinners.

This Christmas Day, Michael Hodgins will be at the RDS at around noon to collect Christmas dinners for delivery.

The RDS will be a hive of activity, he says, because from early morning, an army of volunteer chefs have been preparing Christmas dinners to be picked up by a fleet of drivers who then distribute them to those in need across Dublin.

"I've done a few Christmas Days over the years, and generally I will be at the RDS by between noon and 1pm to pick up the food bags and the goodie bags," says Hodgins, a volunteer with ALONE since the 1980s.

"There's a full Christmas dinner in the food bag, and there's also the goodie bag with chocolate and crackers as well!

"I'd pick up four or five of these and I get a map and then I do the rounds.

"People are usually delighted -- on one occasion, one man was waiting at the gate for it.

"It brings cheer, especially if they are living alone, as many of them would be, and also some of them wouldn't be able to make a Christmas dinner as we would know it. It's very welcome.

"The food is extremely good.

"It brings a bit of comfort to people who may not have a family or have people visiting, and it gives them a good Christmas dinner.

"We spend a short time chatting with the person asking if they have everything they need and if they are alright -- I'd generally be finished within a couple of hours.

"You get far more out of it than you put into it -- the expression on their faces and the welcome we receive is wonderful."

The 69-year-old retiree from Foxrock says volunteers regularly visit people who are living alone -- usually men and women from their mid-60s to their nineties across the social spectrum -- and try to address their needs.

"These days, loneliness is the main issue. If there's any material thing they need that we can provide them with, we would."

"I joined ALONE because I knew the founder, Willie Bermingham and I read about him and about everything that got him motivated to start it up. He was an incredible example of what one man can achieve."

The charity has 150 volunteers, many of whom will be working during the Christmas period.

To volunteer your time or money please log onto or call 01 679 1032.


Irish Independent

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