Penny Dinners' Caitriona is April's Cork Person of the Month
Cork Penny Dinners powerhouse given the April Cork Person of the Month award
The driving force behind Cork Penny Dinners, who last year was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws at UCC in recognition of her selfless work, has been honoured with yet another prestigious award in her native county.
Caitriona Twomey, who has spent more than decade at the helm of the charity that serves up to 2,000 hot meals each week to those in need, has been named as the Cork Person of the Month for April.
The award comes just weeks after the charity was awarded the Irish Food Writers Guild 'Community Food Award' in recognition of their consistent and significant contribution to helping the homeless in Cork.
Catriona - who heads up a team of more than 90 volunteers at the Penny Dinners, which was established in the 1840s during the famine and is among the oldest charitable organisations - has worked with the organisation as a full-time volunteer for many years and has run the service for the past 12 of those.
Committed to providing the hungry of Cork with hot meals 365 days of the year, Penny Dinners offers its services for free.
However, Catriona also helps find accommodation for people and drops food to housebound clients who are unable to get to their Little Hanover Street premises in Cork city.
She has also helped to oversee the charity expand its services, which now opens evenings for on-site night classes, with a small cohort of those staying overnight at the their facility engaging with groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous to help address addiction issues, if they have such issues.
Penny Dinners also has plans to expand its services with a new centre on James Street that will house a medical centre operated on a voluntary and rotatory basis by local GPs. It will hold classes in skills such as sewing, cooking and repairs, and pave the way for the Cork Penny Dinners Orchestra - the idea being to help foster social interactions while offering people the chance to cultivate new skills.
Caitriona said she hoped the building can be a 'one-stop shop' to enhance existing services available to those experiencing financial difficulties.
"Our main objective is to help people achieve their dreams," she said. "Over time the initiative will evolve, and there are so many possibilities to look forward to. Service users have the option of free counselling sessions. The centre will act as a haven for abuse survivors who, with professional support, can strive for solace and healing." Catriona's spirit in helping those less fortunate is infectious and has helped see the number of weekly meals served rise from 150 before the recession to more than 2,000.
She recognises that none of this would be possible without the generosity and support of the people of Cork and the dedication of the team behind Penny Dinners, who come from a variety of backgrounds.
"I am so proud to see the people of Cork getting behind such a great cause. Cork Penny Dinners is a vital part of our community," said Catriona.
"As citizens, we are all responsible for making our country a better place. It is our responsibility to help those in need, and I am so lucky to have such a great team behind me dedicated to this inspiring cause," she added.
Cork Person of the Month/Year sponsor Pat Lemasney said Catriona was a deserved recipient of the April accolade.
"Her commitment to helping fellow Corkonians in times of difficulty is truly heart-warming. Catriona is more than a volunteer. She is a leader, a friend, a mentor and a confidant to all who enter the doors of Cork Penny Dinners," he said.
"Her positive approach towards helping others makes her a truly deserving candidate for this award."
Caitriona will now go forward, alongside the monthly winners selected throughout the coming year, for possible selection as 2019 Cork Person(s) of the Year.