Soup kitchen hit by surge in users

Simon Brouder

Published 13/11/2013 | 05:36

Volunteers Mary Dolan, Colette Price, Eileen Enright John Leahy, and Rhona Johnston will be serving food to the needy over the Christmas week at St John’s Parish Centre on Ashe Street

THE last year has seen a huge surge in the number of poverty stricken people and families attending Tralee's weekly soup kitchen.

THE last year has seen a huge surge in the number of poverty stricken people and families attending Tralee's weekly soup kitchen.

Set up last October, the soup kitchen, which located at St John's Parish Centre on Ashe Street, initially served only a handful of people, usually less than a dozen, every Saturday but now more than 60 people a week are using the service.

The soup kitchen's patrons, all of whom are struggling to feed both themselves and their families, are not confined to the homeless and represent a complete cross section of the community with people of all ages and classes and from all over town availing of the service. Ranging in age from infants to pensioners in their 80s, the only thing that links them is their poverty and their inability to put enough food on their tables.

Originally set up by Tralee women Collette Price and Dawn Roberts, who recognised the desperate situation many people and families had found themselves in since the onset of the recession, the soup kitchen is now run by a team of volunteers who lend a hand to the town's neediest people.

The soup kitchen is supported by the Tralee Lions Club and a number of local businesses who provide food and ingredients to the volunteers who make soup, sandwiches and dinners that they hand out free of change between 12 noon and 2pm every Saturday.

The service is entirely confidential, no one is ever turned away, everyone who arrives is fed and no questions are ever asked of patrons.

While local businesses and the public have been very supportive, the sheer number of people using the service is now beginning to stretch the volunteers' resources and a fundraising drive has been launched to help finance the kitchen and its work.

Dawn Roberts said that the last year has seen a surge in the number in the number of hungry people and families coming to the soup kitchen looking for help.

"We are extremely busy. At the start we might have had about a dozen people or less coming in every week now we have more than 60 every Saturday," she said.

"The people who come to us are from all walks of life and of all ages from babies in prams to 84-year-olds and the vast majority, about 95 per cent, are Irish which might surprise some people," said Dawn.

"It's quite an operation but we have had a huge amount of local support form businesses and we have a list of volunteers who help out."

The next fundraising event in support of the Tralee Soup Kitchen is a table quiz at The Meadowlands Hotel this Thursday night November 14. The quiz, which has been organised by the Tralee Lions Club, begins at 8.30pm.


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