independent

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Soup kitchens 2013; coming soon to a Sligo street near you...

PROPRIETOR OF THREE CHARITABLE FOOD OUTLETS CONFIRMS HE IS TO OPEN A PREMISES IN SLIGO TOWN

HARRY KEANEY

Published 15/01/2013 | 10:57

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A SOUP kitchen may soon be opening in Sligo. Oliver Williams, who has already set up soup kitchens in Galway, Athlone and Roscommon, confirmed that he is currently looking at a number of premises in Sligo.

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He said the soup kitchen would be up and running as soon as he finds a suitable place to rent.

The opening of a soup kitchen would be another sign of the times.

Oliver said: "Unfortunately it has come to the stage that there is a need for this in every town and city in the country.

"I do not see many green shoots in the country. I see this trend continuing."

Despite the name soup kitchens, Oliver said they do not serve soup.

Indeed, he said he would prefer they were called feeding stations.

"The ethos is that anyone can walk in off the street and have a free meal," he said.

Soup kitchens rely totally on volunteers and the kindness of local people.

Oliver explained: "It has become community based. Soup kitchens receive no State funding."

Asked why they were called Twist soup kitchens, Mr. Williams responded: "Because my name is Oliver."

A native of Abbeyknockmoy, Co. Galway, he knew hard times himself as a teenager in England.

Having left home at 15, he found himself on the streets of London with no place to stay. Then he found Centrepoint, in Soho. There, he was provided with a hot meal, a bed and good advice. "That helped put me on a good track when I could have gone down the wrong way at such a young age."

It was a gift he never forgot. He returned to Ireland about 15 years ago. A qualified pilot, he operated a helicopter at the height of the boom, but his job fell victim to the economic collapse.

And he also became aware that many people were enduring tough times, especially single mothers with children.

Surveys showed that homes were short of food and that children were going to school hungry.

Among those who now visit the soup kitchens are people whom Oliver calls the "new poor," people who have lost their jobs and can't get social welfare, and single parents.

For some, a Twist soup kitchen may provide their only meal of the day.

All this, coupled with his own experiences, inspired him to establish the first Twist soup kitchen in Galway last June.

The kitchens or feeding stations are set up to look like normal restaurants.

Oliver said: "We don't want people to feel they shouldn't be here or embarrassed.

"We want to remove that stigma. We don't ask questions. Everybody is welcome.

"The obvious question you might ask is do people take advantage. The answer is, they don't."

People wishing to support Oliver's effort may log onto www.twistsoupkitchen.com or call him at 087777-3845.

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