ONE Strabane community worker will spend tomorrow (Christmas Day) cooking up a storm for vulnerable residents in supported accommodation in the town.
Teresa Gallagher, a housing support officer at Dillon Court, will start Christmas morning in the kitchen, cooking a large festive fry for residents who are not going out to family on the day. Teresa’s youngest resident is 18-years-old, her oldest is 80. She says she loves cooking at the court because she knows what it’s like to be hungry on Christmas Day.
“I was living in London for 18 years and I was often hungry on Christmas Day myself”, she says. “I was homeless when I was young. I was always interested in the caring side of work in the community.
“On Christmas Day here in Dillon Court we try to make everything as jolly as we can. We have presents here on the table and we put on food for the residents. Last year some of the residents even dressed up as Santa and delivered dinners to the older residents who did not come out of their accommodation. They sang a few Christmas Carols at their doors to make it nice for them. It was lovely.
“This year I’ll be in at 9.30am on Christmas morning cooking. I am doing a brunch here shortly before 12 noon. We have a qualified chef so it’ll be all hands on deck for us, but some of the residents will also help out.
“Everyone is invited and everyone is welcome. Some of the people in Dillon Court will go to family, but around 10 of them will stay here with us. But anybody, even outside the project who has nothing to eat, they are welcome to come along. I wouldn’t see anyone stuck on Christmas Day for some food.
“The Community Help in the Local District (CHILD) charity gives us vouchers for food that we put to good use on Christmas Day. The Council for the Homeless NI (CHNI) also give us money every Christmas and a local retailer Paddy Sheerin does up festive hampers for us. They are amazing. The residents just love them.
It really makes Christmas special”, she says.
Resident James Devlin (35) says he loves Christmas at Dillon Court.
“I was in a bad way when I came here,”, he says. “I was homeless. I spent many Christmases on the streets. It was a very rough for years. I might have been able to go into a Church or something for Christmas dinner but they often didn’t have enough room and I am the type of person that would push an older gentleman in for his dinner in front of me and go without. I am Scottish and have six sisters but because of my lifestyle they put the blockers up. They had to. I understand that.
“I spent Christmas here last year and it was really great. We were given big hampers full of lovely things – food, stuff for our flats, chocolate and a card to top up my electricity. I dressed as Santa and sang Christmas songs for some of the older residents. Christmas was so good in here. I got a hat and some gloves as a gift.
“We got the carols and the craic going. It made me feel fantastic. I felt comfortable, part of something, more than what I am used to. I love it here.”