88th Christmas Day Dinner Report 2012
Over 300 volunteers came together on Christmas Day to provide a three course meal of soup, Christmas dinner, Christmas pudding and mild refreshments to the poor and homeless of Dublin City. A free transport coach shuttle service to and from the RDS was provided and guests enjoyed the festivities which included entertainment and Irish dancing. In addition, on leaving our 350 guests were presented with a ‘goody bag’ containing food, toiletries, soft drinks and household products for the following days.
Takeaway meals were prepared and with the assistance of St. Vincent de Paul, Simon, Alone, Age Action, Dublin City and other groups who provided transport, Christmas dinners and “goody bags” were delivered to the needy in their own homes. The need for the takeaway dinners is increasing every year reflecting the difficulties experienced by the community in these serious economic conditions. This year on Christmas Day we delivered 1,600 meals and goody bags – a 23% increase from Year 2011 (34% increase since Year 2010).
This is the 88th year the Knights of St. Columbanus have hosted the Christmas Day Dinner for the poor and homeless of Dublin. The dedicated organising committee recognising the challenges faced by society and appreciating how much the over stretched organisations working within the field of the homeless, poor and needy require our prayers, financial assistance and support 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 any other person who may have little food or money.
The comfortable surroundings of the RDS contributed to an atmosphere of celebration for Christmas Day and we are extemely grateful to the members of the Royal Dublin Society and the RDS Management team for their continual support. A special treat was the entertainment provided by Kevin Warren and his Irish dancing group. It was a joy to watch our guests join in the set dancing and having a moment of fun with the enthusiastic young dancers. Sincere thanks to Paddy McPoland and Litton Lane Audio for providing the sound system and to Mick Lagan, Paul Finley, Brendan McQuaile and to all the entertainers. To complete the celebrations guests sang along with soprano Norah King and the “Christmas Day Dinner Choir” under the direction of John Dooley. Guests were particularly enthralled by Norah’s beautiful rendition of O Holy Night.
The worthy function was enriched by the presence of the Lord Mayor Mr Naoise Ó Muirí and the Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin. Together with the Supreme Knight of the Order of the Knights of St Columbanus Bernard Burns, our distinguished visitors circulated among guests and volunteers, held babies in their arms, discussed the difficulties experienced for the homeless within the Dublin area and brought some Christmas comfort and thanksgiving to all present.
As part of the planning for the 88th Christmas Day Dinner the committee from the Knights of St Columbanus worked closely with charitable organisations to ensure:
1. Appropriate “Pick Up” locations for the free coach bus service: Dawson Street opposite Mansion House; Four Courts Quay/Buildings; O’Connell Street under Cleary’s Clock.
2. Appropriate timing for the coach shuttle service: coaches operated every 20 minutes from 9:30am; coaches returned from the RDS up to 1:45pm
3. Adequate 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 workers; pre-Christmas articles were published in the Irish Catholic and other media sources.
4. Extensive advertising of the Ordering System for takeaway dinners: information on the dedicated mobile phone line and dedicated email address was provided to all groups and the media; reminders were issued to all groups based on Orders received in previous years.
5. Sourcing of appropriate food and hygiene product for the takeaway “Goody Bags”: over 55,000 individual items were sourced, packed and provided to the poor, needy and homeless; the committee are indebted to the donations of product received from many suppliers and to Leydens for the storage of product prior to delivery to the RDS.
6. 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 was provided to all volunteers during which tasks were allocated and a “Volunteer Admittance Card” was issued; admittance to the RDS for volunteers was by proof of attendance at the training day.
7. Provision of a safe, friendly, enjoyable and holy experience for guests:
the safety of guests was assured by the generous attendance of An Garda Síochána and the Order of Malta; the quality Christmas meals were provided by Swift Fine Foods; Des Kelly provided and installed the Crib bringing a reminder of Christ in Christmas for all.
It is pleasing to note that the main objectives- to provide over 1,600 takeaway meals, to manage over 300 volunteers, and to provide some 350 sit down meals to the homeless, poor and needy and to provide them with entertainment, hospitable company and refreshments - was indeed achieved. Our guests experienced some joy and Christian fellowship on Christmas Day and many needy received a much appreciated Christmas meal in their home.
To conclude this report I extend sincere thanks to the members of the Christmas Day Dinner Committee and to the Managers of the various activities for making my duties and responsibilities as Chairman such a congenial and rewarding experience.
Chairman Christmas Day Dinner Committee