Monday Lunch Club is a recipe for good food and company at St Patrick’s

Liz McQuade, St Patrick’s Hall in Strathleven Place, John Duffy and some volunteers and the people who benefit from the lunch club. Pictures by Bill Heaney

By Bill Heaney

All the lonely people. Where do they all come from?

I don’t know where they come from, but I know where they go to of a Monday at lunchtime in Dumbarton.

I once asked a priest what was the worst problem he faced amongst people in his parish.

I expected him to tell me about drink and drugs and people smoking themselves to death. But he didn’t. It was loneliness.

There were people living alone who didn’t see anyone, friend, foe or family for long periods at a time.

I had occasion to ask this question again when I went along to the lunch club that takes place in St Patrick’s Church Hall on a Monday around noon.

The volunteers, led by former policeman and well known Sons’ fan, John Duffy, and Elizabeth McQuade, who orders the food, were working hard in the kitchen behind the counter.

They were mainly women, of course. Women are terrific. What would we do without them?

Mothers and grannies would have picked up their grandchildren and brought them to school that morning.

They would have made breakfast and been out shopping again for that night’s tea.

But it didn’t deter them from going into the church hall and making a meal on a freezing cold January day for people less fortunate than themselves.

All the lonely people who were so delighted to have something nicely cooked for them.

A piping hot main course was on the menu and green pea soup, a sweet and then a welcome cup of tea or coffee.

And, very importantly this was an occasion to meet friends and neighbours even, people they might not have seen even over Christmas.

There was no charge either. No one had to pay for their lunch.

Elizabeth McQuade, a retired secretary, looks after the administration at St Patrick’s Monday Lunch Club.

She said the original idea was that people would come and work in the church gardens where they could grow their own vegetables which would then be used to make the meals.

There were people with the usual addictions to drugs and alcohol who came at first – and still come – but the group discovered that a lot of them came along just because they were lonely.

Liz said: “We gave them a hand with their problems such as filling in forms for welfare benefits or hospital appointments., things like that which a lot of people can’t manage on their won.

“Some of them come here from homeless shelters and residential places.

“We supply cooked meals and send them out to places such Gray Street in Alexandria, Nobleston and Ashton View in Westcliff, where there is accommodation for homeless people who can’t cook for themselves and do not have the confidence to come here.

“We also send out meals to the Women’s Refuge in Vale of Leven.”

John Duffy said: “We send out around 50 meals on the days we meet and since we started five years ago we reckon we have supplied about 13,000 meals to people in need.”

Liz added: “We have a good stock of food here to give people a choice and to mix things up so that the meals are not boring.

“We appeal through the church newsletter and it is quite remarkable how much support we receive.

“For this we are very grateful to the parishioners and to Canon Gerry Conroy for the use of the premises.”


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