Christmas Day Dinner Report 2013
Over 300 volunteers came together in the RDS to feed 2,450 poor, needy and homeless at the annual Christmas Day Dinner
organised by the Knights of St Columbanus. A warm and friendly welcome was extended to all that have little food or money and the blessings of the Christmas season was experienced by the guests during this holy time.
The Knights of St. Columbanus first hosted the free Christmas Day Dinner for the poor and homeless of Dublin in the Mansion House in 1924. For the 89th year of the function volunteers provided a free transport coach shuttle service to and from the RDS and a three course meal for 350 guests of soup, Christmas dinner, Christmas pudding and mild refreshments. In addition some 2,100 Christmas dinners and Christmas puddings were prepared to be delivered to the homes of the poor and needy with the assistance of St. Vincent de Paul, Simon, Alone, Age Action, Dublin City Council and other groups who provided transport.
This need to provide takeaway dinners has increased significantly over recent years (43% increase from Year 2010) reflecting the difficulties experienced by the community in these hard economic conditions.
To further help the poor and homeless during the Christmas season volunteers packed “goody bags” with food, toiletries, soft drinks and household products. Each of the 350 guests attending the dinner was provided with a “goody bag” and one was also provided with each of the 2,100 takeaway meals. The Christmas Day Dinner Committee are extremely grateful to the many suppliers that provided the product for “goody bags” with over 130,000 separate items of product sourced and delivered to the RDS. For 2013 the generous contribution of product afforded the committee the opportunity to provide resources to homeless organisations for the days immediately after Christmas Day.
Having reviewed the needs of the charitable organisations working in the area of poor and homeless the following objectives were determined by the organising committee:
1. To increase the number of homeless poor and needy attending the RDS: Posters and invitation cards to advertise the Free Admission and the Free Transport arrangements were printed. Posters advertising the Christmas Day Dinner were displayed and cards distributed through hostels, food kitchens, sheltered accommodation, charity shops and by students carrying out soup runs. Press Releases were issued and articles published in newspapers and other media sources. Awareness of the Christmas day dinner was also achieved through appearance on RTÉ, Morning Edition.
2. To provide improved communication with Volunteers and Partners: A professional Web Site www.christmasdaydinner.com was
developed for Volunteer registration and to facilitate Partners in ordering takeaway meals (number of meals, time for collection and
3. To provide Health & Safety training to Volunteers and an understanding of tasks: An Induction Day training programme for Volunteers was provided which consisted of an awareness of the Christmas Day Dinner, identification of hazards and risks and the understanding and allocation of tasks to perform at the event. Each volunteer was issued with a “Volunteer
Admittance Card” providing details of the task and the time to arrive at the RDS.
4. To provide a quality three - course sit down meal and takeaway dinners: A supplier of high qualitysoup, dinners and desserts
was sourced. Chef Patsy McGurk together with chef Sarah McNeill ensured the catering for the function was professional, friendly and supportive. A specific RDS experienced porter to assist with equipment and the catering was appointed. A suitable Hire Company to fully meet the requirements of the event was sourced.
5. To provide a takeaway “Goody Bag” with provisions that meet the needs of the homeless, poor and needy on Christmas Day and during the days after. Organisations working with the poor and homeless were contacted to determine a list of specific required product. Suppliers were obtained to deliver product to the RDS on time and to specific requirements. Over 130,000 individual items were packed and provided to the poor, needy and homeless not just on Christmas Day but for the following days.
6. To provide asafe, friendly, enjoyable and spiritual experience for guests: The safety of guests was assured by the attendance of An Garda Síochána and the Order of Malta. Des Kelly provided and installed the Crib bringing a reminder of Christ in Christmas for all. The committee are grateful to the members of the Royal Dublin Society in providing the comfortable surroundings of the RDS which were enhanced by Dara McGann with balloons and Alan Rowe from MPM, Justin Woods, Jeff O’Connor and Lukasz Karpinski with interior decorations, garlands and lights. A special treat was the entertainment provided by the Bastable Warren Irish Dancers and the Slovakian folk ensemble. Many thanks to Paddy McPoland and Litton Lane Audio for providing the sound system and to Mick Lagan, Eamon Campbell, Eoghan Cooke and Jan Brtnik and to all entertainers. To complete the celebrations guests sang along with the “Christmas Day Dinner Choir” under the direction of John Dooley.
It is pleasing to note that the main objectives - to provide 2,100 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.
The worthy function was enriched by the presence of the Lord Mayor Mr Oisin Quinn who addressed the guests and volunteers and the Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin. Together with Bernard Burns Supreme Knight and Des O’Loughlin, Provincial Grand Knight, our distinguished visitors circulated among guests and volunteers, and brought some Christmas comfort and thanksgiving to all present.
To conclude this report I extend sincere thanks to the members of the Christmas Day Dinner Committee for making my duties and responsibilities as Chairman such a congenial and rewarding experience.
Chairman Christmas Day Dinner Committee
The Order of the Knights of St. Columbanus