Almost 3,000 grocery vouchers handed out at Capuchin Centre

Decision taken to provide €40 Supervalu vouchers instead of hampers this year

Almost 3,000 grocery vouchers, in lieu of Christmas hampers, were provided to some of Dublin’s poorest households at the Capuchin Day Centre on Friday.

Doors at the Bow Street premises opened at 8am and the socially-distanced queue moved quickly as people collected the small white envelopes containing the credit-card sized vouchers.

Though the centre had continued providing take-away breakfasts and lunches through the pandemic, and grocery parcels every Wednesday, a decision was taken to provide €40 Supervalu vouchers instead of hampers this year.

"Normally we would have about 70 people in the day before packing the hampers. Because of the Covid we just couldn't have that this year," explains volunteer co-ordinator Alan Bailey.


“Brother Kevin took the decision on the vouchers. We bought about €120,000 worth. The €40 probably is worth more than the hampers would, but for this Christmas more than ever people will need it.”

Blue tickets for the “hampers” were offered to anyone collecting parcels over the last two Wednesdays. People were not told they would in fact be getting vouchers, “to avoid numbers getting out of hand,” says Mr Bailey. As a result some appear somewhat confused when handed the envelope at the hatch.

“I thought it was a Christmas card to be honest,” says one elderly man. When he realises what it is he adds: “I don’t mind the voucher instead to be honest. I am a diabetic so I wouldn’t want biscuits, sweets, chocolates that we usually get in with the other food. I am not in too much need. I have been coming here for years and they always welcome me because I have no family.”

Marie McKenna (84) however would have preferred the hamper. "I brought my trolley in and all, but I suppose it doesn't make much difference." A former hospital cleaner – "my last job was in St Brendan's hospital" – she lives with her son in nearby Wolfe Tone Street.

“He is very good to me. He’s a chef – can’t get work at the minute. He gives me his money every week. I get the pension.

“This year has been very bad. Money is tight and I have had a few falls so I have to watch myself.” Asked how they will spend Christmas she says they may go to Knights of Columbanus dinner, which will be a take-away service at the Mansion House. Then they will visit her mother’s grave. “I miss her very much,” she says.

Maggie, a mother of three children, aged 12 to 16, comes to the centre “every Wednesday” for the parcels. “The few bits inside of it are brilliant – the tea bags, the sugar. It means you don’t have to buy those things and you have that for other things. The children are at very expensive ages, trust me. I am on my own, so I need this,” she says looking at the envelope. “It is hard going.”

A retired mechanic tells how he comes once a week from Carlow, using his free travel pass. “It helps me out because my circumstances aren’t the best. I had my house repaired but for the last three years I had broken windows and no heating.” Asked how his year has been he says: “I’ve had worse ones. I went through so much in life there’s nothing worries me these days.”

“My father used to say to me: ‘If you’re homeless or a multi-millionaire, once you have a dry bed and food in your tummy you’re not too bad. Every day then is a blessing.”. He becomes upset talking about family he rarely sees. “Ah just a little bit emotional. I leave the old memories behind me but sometimes they come back. A lot of things go through your mind when you’re on your own. It’s nice to talk.”

The Centre closes on Christmas Day, reopening for breakfast at 8 am on St Stephen’s Day.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times