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Inspirational Cork Penny Dinners powerhouse honoured with award

Caitriona Twomey to be inducted into Cork Person of the Year Awards hall of fame

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Catriona Twomey has spent 14-years at the helm of the charity.

Catriona Twomey has spent 14-years at the helm of the charity.

Catriona Twomey has spent 14-years at the helm of the charity.

corkman

THE powerhouse behind Cork Penny Dinners, Caitriona Twomey, has become the latest person to join the exclusive Cork Person of the Year awards ‘Hall of Fame’ club. Caitriona, will become just the fourth person to receive the prestigious accolade, joining Ted Crosbie, Fergal Keane and Fermoy’s Dr Tom Cavanagh on the Roll of Honour, when she is formally inducted into the Hall of Fame at next Friday’s Cork Person of the Year awards gala lunch. One of the annual highlights on Cork’s social calendar, the event will also see the unveiling of the 2021 Cork Person of the Year and Scottish-born singer/songwriter Donovan and his wife Linda join the list of Honorary Corkpersons. Awards organiser, Mallow-native Manus O’Callaghan, said Caitriona Twomey’s induction into the Hall of fame was fitting recognition for a woman who has dedicated her life to the service of those in need. “Dr Caitriona Twomey and her team of volunteers provide thousands of freshly-made meals every week to those in need and over recent years she had also added more activities and free services,” said Manus. “Caitriona oversees the operation of what is arguably the most admired service ever established in Cork. Guests always find an open door and a warm welcome every day of the year, with no questions ever asked,” he added. One of the oldest charitable organisations in the country, Cork Penny Dinners can trace its lineage back to the soup kitchens established by the Society of Friends (Quakers) in the early 1840s during the famine. The charity’s name was derived from the practise of paying one penny for a quart of soup and half a loaf of bread. Caitriona was inspired to get involved with the charity by her father Thomas Lynch, who would devote much of his Christmas Day to cooking hot meals for Cork’s homeless. “My father never told us where he was going which only fuelled my curiosity”, Caitriona said. “I was thrilled when he agreed to let me come with him one year. From helping out I was shocked to see the number of people suffering. It made me realise how truly lucky I was,” she added. For many years Caitriona worked as a volunteer with the charity and for the last 14-years has been at its helm, heading up a team of almost 100-volunteers of all ages and from all walks of life. In addition to cooking up to 2,000 meals each week and providing people with warm clothes and bedding, the charity drops food to those unable to get to their Little Hanover Street premises in Cork City and helps find accommodation for those in need of a roof over their heads. During her time in charge Caitriona has overseen the expansion of the charity’s range of free services to include on-site night classes and helping people engage with groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous to help address addiction issues. She was also the driving force behind the establishment of the charity’s Croi Na Laoi wellness centre on James Street. In addition to hosting recovery meetings, mindfulness & well-being classes, the centre also has an education room that runs literacy classes and a programme that helps prepare people for going to college. The centre is also home to the High Hopes Choir, with plans in place to establish a Penny Dinners Orchestra. Other plans for the facility include the establishment of a medical centre staffed on a voluntary and rotatory basis by local GP’s. Speaking to The Corkman Caitriona said she “overwhelmed and humbled” at being inducted into the Cork Person of the Year Hall of Fame. “When Manus got in contact to tell me the news I was blown away. That I would even be considered for this is hard to believe,” said Caitriona. She said that since the news broke she has been inundated with messages of congratulations. “People have been stopping me on the street and honking their car horns when they see me. Classmates of my grandson James even had a round of applause, with his teacher telling him to bring it back to me,” grinned Caitriona. “I can not thank Manus and the people behind the awards enough, it means so much,” she added. In typically humbling fashion, she dedicated the award to the many volunteers who have been part of the Cork Penny Dinners story over the years. “None of what we do here would have been possible without the volunteers, this award is as much about them as it is me. We are all one big family and I would be lost without them,” said Caitriona. “All of us feel privileged to be of service to our fellow human beings. Of course, we do see some sadness, but we also see a tremendous amount of happiness and kindness in people and we all feel extremely fortunate to be able to bear witness to that,” she added.

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