This is the 94th consecutive year the Order of Knights of St. Columbanus have hosted the Christmas Day Dinner for the poor and homeless of Dublin. A dedicated organising committee of volunteer members of the Order, recognising the seasonal challenge faced by organisations working with the homeless, poor and needy respond by organising this annual event. Together with the support of the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) Board and Management and financial support from private donors and charitable contributions we again opened the doors of the RDS on Christmas Day to provide not just food but also comfort and hope to those who need it most on such a special day. A warm welcome was extended to the homeless, the poor and nobody was turned away.
The comfortable and well-prepared surroundings of the RDS contributed to an atmosphere of celebration for Christmas Day and we are extremely grateful to the members of the Royal Dublin Society and the RDS management team for their continued support. We mention for sincere thanks Mr Cian O’Colman, retiring Operations Director of the RDS for his many years of valuable help and support. Special thanks also to Chef George O’Brien for leading a strong and competent team in the kitchen; to Simon Wilson who for several years now has managed the logistics of take-away meals dispatch; to Iris MacGiolla Iosa a long-time committed volunteer and to Niall Maguire who has helped in supervision of the dining room for several years. Thanks also to Tom Bishop who has managed his team of wardens and site traffic management in the usual unobtrusive but effective way. We thank also our friends at Session Hire Ltd. for providing the sound system and to Paddy McPoland and Norah King, and all volunteer entertainers for their talented contributions.
We were delighted to welcome a visit of the Lord Mayor of Dublin Nial Ring, and the Archbishop of Dublin Dr. Diarmuid Martin. Together with Gerald Harbinson the Supreme Knight of the Order, our distinguished visitors circulated among guests and volunteers and brought some Christmas comfort and encouragement to all
Planning for the 94th Christmas Day Dinner began in early September, and the Committee meets regularly in September, October and November, with final preparations made during December. Each Committee member managed specific aspects of the annual event, and this was coordinated by the Chairman and Secretary.
Among the principal preparation management tasks undertaken were:
Engagement of suitable free coach transport for collections and drop-off locations; including Dawson Street opposite the Mansion House, the Four Courts, and O’Connell Street at Clery’s Store. The timing for the coach shuttle service is every 20 minutes from 9:30am. Then a return coach service from the RDS up to 2pm.
Ensuring widespread awareness of the Dinner among the poor and homeless: posters were displayed in all shelters and appropriate locations, cards were distributed to the poor and homeless through soup kitchens, charity shops and by social workers, a media press release was issued, radio interviews were broadcast, and newspapers were used to advertise the dinner and ensure those in need were aware of an open welcome.
Extensive advertising of the Online Ordering System for takeaway dinners: information on the dedicated website and email address was provided to all charitable groups, Health Service Executive, case managers and the media.
Sourcing of appropriate food and hygiene products for the takeaway “Goody Bags”: over 40,000 individual items were sourced, packed and provided for distribution to the poor, needy and homeless. The committee are grateful to Leydens Wholesalers for assistance in sourcing and storage of product prior to delivery to the RDS.
Registration and training of volunteers and the allocation of tasks in advance of Christmas Day: registration of volunteers was through the dedicated web site; www.christmasdaydinner.com – training in health and safety awareness was provided to all volunteers, admittance to the RDS for volunteers was by proof of attendance at the training day. Ensuring the preparation of a safe, friendly, enjoyable and comfortable experience for guests: the safety of guests was assured by the valuable attendance of An Garda Síochána and the Order of Malta, to whom we are most grateful.
Chairman Christmas Day Dinner Committee
Order of Knights of Saint Columbanus