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Ma Smith cooks up festive delight for city’s homeless
AS Christmas draws near, Oxford’s answer to Mother Theresa has cooked up another festive banquet for the city’s homeless.
For the past 23 years, Icolyn Smith, known to everyone as “Ma Smith”, has been serving up lunch to the homeless twice a week.
Yesterday she and her faithful assistants, many of them family, cooked their traditional Christmas lunch at the Asian Cultural Centre in Manzil Way, off Cowley Road.
She has been cooking slap-up meals for the city’s homeless and needy since 1990.
She pledged to help the homeless after walking along streets like Cowley Road and seeing those in need. The 83-year-old said: “I just love people. We only have each other.
“That is all anyone has.
“It isn’t more important at Christmas, we just serve up some extra things.”
In 1998, Mrs Smith was made an MBE for services to disadvantaged people in Cowley. And in 2012, her work featured in TV’s The Secret Millionaire.
Shortly before that, her application for funding was turned down by Oxford City Council, because, it said, research had shown the kind of facility she operates encouraged rough sleeping.
All the food which is served is donated by Oxford Food Bank, Alder’s Butchers in Cowley Road and individual supporters.
The mother-of-five said she had not seen any rise in takers for her free lunch during the recession.
She said: “Every week we have 55 or 60 people.”
Yesterday, about that number of people tucked into a meal of turkey, beef and lamb with sauteed vegetables and mince pies to follow.
One diner gratefully tucking into the free feast was 45-year-old Geoff Wood, from Cowley. He has been unemployed for three years due to ill health. In the past year-and-a-half, he has become a regular at Ma’s kitchen.
Kevin Cooper (left) and Geoff Wood
He said: “I come here because I am a sociable chap, I know of lot of people in Oxford and I like coming to see the wonderful work Ma is doing.
“People love her because she is like a step-mum.”
One of Mrs Smith’s children, Gary, 47, helps out with the cooking whenever he can.
He said: “It’s just what we do – you see a need and you do something about it.
“People think that she is their mum.”
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