01/12/2015 2:16 pm

This Christmas expert hoteliers Francis and John Brennan are on a mission to help ‘Penny Dinners’ soup kitchen in Cork. Every day Penny Dinners serve food not only to the homeless but also to many who are struggling to make ends meet. The number of meals they serve each week has in recent years soared from 200 to 1,800 but their premises are very dilapidated and badly in need of the Brennans magic touch. Will the Brennans make their Christmas deadline?


Francis and John Brennan are best known for sharing their hotel expertise on

RTE’S At Your Service. But in recent years they have taken up a more personal challenge at Christmas when they have applied their troubleshooting skills to help charitable organisations.

This year John and Francis are coming to the aid of Penny Dinners,

a soup kitchen in Cork. The charity is run by volunteers who provide 1800 meals a week for people who are homeless. They run an open door policy with no questions asked, and they serve dinners to anyone who is hungry, fallen on hard times or simply can’t always afford a hot meal.

The premises need to be totally refurbished – the building requires everything from a new roof to a new floor. The kitchen is not fit for purpose and has to be completely ripped out. There are 9 old fridges currently cluttering the dining room – a proper system has to be put into place for cold storage. Storage generally is a nightmare, with cardboard boxes piled high on top of rackety cupboards.

There is no money to make the changes so the Brennans’ task is to wheel in donations and volunteers – they have to make many appeals to companies for goods and labour. Another massive ask is help to transport food as Penny Dinners often collect donations or deliver food to those with no transport. They have to rely on volunteers own cars or help from the general public - Penny Dinners need their own mode of transport!  Can the Brennans find a solution?

Whilst the refurbishment is underway, temporary premises have to be found to ensure Penny Dinners clients won’t go hungry. As the Brennans list of tasks grows, they need to enlist the help of local colleges, hotels and restaurants to ensure that sufficient numbers of meals can be provided every day in a makeshift centre with no cooking facilities.

The Brennans also want to create a Christmas pop-up shop experience to provide brand new winter clothing for the clients of Penny Dinners. They call in the services of local department stores, boutiques and shops - can they fill the shelves?

John and Francis Brennan need once again to tap into the generosity of the people of Ireland to give this wonderful charity a much-needed makeover just in time for Christmas 2015!

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