Athlone takes stock with first soup kitchen


Customers at Athlone’s first soup kitchen welcomed its opening yesterday and described the facility as “badly needed” in the Co Westmeath town.

Twist Soup Kitchen was opened by Oliver Williams, who operates another soup kitchen in Galway city. Mr Williams said the response from volunteers and the business community was “overwhelming”.

“Lots of local businesses have come in behind me. I’ve got people that provided flooring for me, I’ve got fruit and veg, I’ve got bread and of course the volunteers: Colette, Joan, Damien and Joe. I couldn’t have done it without them,” he said.

His clients represent a cross-section of society, he said. “I’ve just had a mother with two kids. Two elderly guys came in there and there’s been guys there 18 to 22 years of age,” he said.

The younger clients were described by Mr Williams as the new poor. “They just can’t cut it out there. Nothing for them,” he said.

Mr Williams, who availed of a soup kitchen in London for a short time in the 1980s, is fearful of the forthcoming budget and plans to open further facilities. He said the majority of his clients had houses but were struggling to cope financially.

Athlone native Frankie dropped by to see the facility and sample a bowl of stew. “It’s badly needed, it’s badly needed in any town at the moment and every little helps,” he said.

Frankie, who has a place to live, hopes to volunteer at the soup kitchen.

“This place is brilliant, they have everything for the kids and everything. I think they are doing a great job,” he said.

Robert (44), who is also from Athlone, said he had gone hungry on occasion.

“It’s hard, tough all right. I have a place to stay,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t have much to eat.

“It’s great to get a warm bowl of soup when you are kind of hungry . . . I do try and buy a bit of grub when I have money.”

He added that he intended to return to the soup kitchen.

“The stew is nice and warm, it’d warm you up and keep you going,” he said. “I’d probably know a good few people in town who would go in.”

The soup kitchen is a voluntary service, its opening enabled by donations from suppliers. Fruit and vegetables are supplied by Mark Lennon, meat by butcher Noel Troy and by Callinan’s butchers, and bread by O’Hare’s bakery.

Michael Heavin and Pat Reddington supplied free flooring at the kitchen.

Mr Williams said the soup kitchen, which includes a charity shop at the front, had received donations at idonate.iefrom as far afield as Germany.

Twist Soup Kitchen, on Seán Costello Street in Athlone, opens between 10am and 4pm from Monday to Friday and between 10am and 2pm on Saturdays.