A cafe in Co Galway demonstrated the true meaning of Christmas on Wednesday afternoon as it opened its doors to those who are lonely and in need of support.
Locals from Oranmore arrived into Thomas & Co today to enjoy hot drinks, mince pies, festive music, and most importantly, some conversation.
After countless donations of Christmas treats from people around the town, owners of the cafe, Nicola and John Thomas, swung open their doors and welcomed those in need of some comfort and company.
For John, today marks his first Christmas without his father who passed away last January. It was facing Christmas without his dad that inspired him to invite others into the café. “This is kind of therapy for me,” he said.
Emotion ran high through the building as communities gathered together in support of each other. For Nicola Thomas, "that's what Christmas is about. It's not about receiving, it's giving."
Among those who arrived into Thomas and Co was Kevin Slattery who had been sitting in his flat by himself when he found out the café was open.
Kevin had been homeless for many years before securing a flat in Oranmore two years ago with the help of the Simon Community.
“I have a problem with drink. I find it very hard at Christmas not to go drinking and I usually get in trouble. The Gardaí are at the house or an ambulance is at the house,” Kevin said.
However, this year Kevin left his empty flat and walked to Thomas and Co for some company. He said, “I can’t explain what this means. I’m just happy.”
For Brazilian native, Anderson Morales, who has been living in Galway for fourteen years, Christmas can be difficult as he has no family here in Ireland.
“You find a lot of people like me here,” he said, sitting among strangers conversing. “It kind of brings me a sense of family again.”
Throngs of volunteers also arrived into the cafe, making coffees, washing dishes and providing musical entertainment.
Gillian Mary Ni Chonbhui, who is a nurse and midwife, travelled from Clare to offer lifts to those who needed them and to provide friendly conversation.
Meanwhile, Emma Howard along with her 15-year-old daughter came down to provide healthcare assistance to any elderly people or disabled people.
The professional healthcare assistant esaid, “I thought it would be lovely for me to give back. The biggest donation I can give is my time.”
An atmosphere of joy and kindness was evident throughout the café as strangers comforted each other and enjoyed donations from local people and businesses in the town.
“This is what Christmas is supposed to be,” owner of the cafe, Nicola Thomas said, wiping tears from her eyes. “It’s just amazing to be here and be surrounded by all these people that are here together on Christmas Day.”
Any donations which were not used today will be donated to COPE Galway, a local charity which provides support to people who are homeless, those who experience domestic violence, and elderly people.