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  • Northside East

Soup kitchens serve important role in the local community

Monday, 25th February, 2019 6:00pm
Soup kitchens serve important role in the local community

Mark O’Neill, founder of Balbriggan Soup Kitchen.

Soup kitchens serve important role in the local community

Mark O’Neill, founder of Balbriggan Soup Kitchen.

Louis Grelet

BALBRIGGAN Soup Kitchen was established in September last year.

It is part of a growing group of soup kitchens called Irish Soup Kitchen that are owned by Mark O’Neill. 

Mark founded the organisation after he had a “health scare” in 2010. He then opened a soup kitchen in Drogheda in 2013, one in Navan in 2016, is also opening one in Dundalk and has plans to set up another in Mullingar. 

Mark says he likes what he’s doing “simply because it’s helping people”.

The kitchens rely solely on donations to keep them running and are run purely by generous volunteers who give up their free time to help out.

Balbriggan Soup Kitchen is open every day of the week from 9am to 4pm except Sunday when it closes at 3pm. 

Irish Soup Kitchen’s aim is to provide a place where people can come to have a free meal and enjoy the company of the volunteers as well as the other people who have come there.

Mark says what makes Irish Soup Kitchen Centres stand out from others is the fact that “you get a restaurant feeling when you enter”. 

No questions are asked when somebody enters, as he believes that if somebody “has the courage to enter when the [soup kitchen] sign is over the door” they more than likely need the service. They’re asked what they would like from what is available on the day and then served. Whenever the volunteers have any free time they are encouraged to go outside and talk to the customers.

I recently volunteered at the Balbriggan Soup Kitchen myself. During my time there I learned that most of the people who come in are not homeless. 

They are mostly people who are either struggling financially, have an addiction, mental health issues or are simply lonely.

They come to the kitchen, as it is somewhere they can relax for a few moments in the day and chat to some friendly faces. 

Because of this I think that soup kitchens, like the Irish Soup Kitchen centres, should be opened in most large towns around the country, as they are a service I think many people would benefit from. If  you would like to volunteer at any of the Irish Soup Kitchen Centres, call 085-8811112.

•Louis Grelet is a TY student at Skerries Community College. 

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