A group of “exceptional” volunteers who patrol the streets of Bury St Edmunds at night to provide help and support to people are celebrating their 10th anniversary.
Since May 2, 2008, the Bury Town Pastors have been keeping a watch over the bar/club areas of the town centre on Friday and Saturday nights between 10pm and 4am, wearing their distinctive hi-vis coats and navy blue caps.
There are currently 95 volunteers from more than 30 churches – 35 town pastors and 60 prayer team members.
To mark the 10-year anniversary, a thanksgiving service was held at St Mary’s Church in Bury St Edmunds on Sunday and the volunteers were presented with a special award.
Julia Wakelam, borough councillor for Risbygate ward, presented the pastors with a St Edmundsbury Councillor Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Community.
Mrs Wakelam, who during her year as mayor of St Edmundsbury spent a night with the pastors observing their work, said: “I was both impressed and deeply moved by the town pastors’ commitment and dedication to those who need help at night.
“Where others might walk on by, the town pastors offer non-judgemental support and comfort to vulnerable people. Their work makes the streets of our town safer for all. They richly deserve this award.”
It was 2007 when Dave Rollett first had a passion to see volunteers from local churches helping people who found themselves in difficulties on their night out.
A group of people representing a number of local churches came together and, with help and guidance from Ipswich Town Pastors, Bury Town Pastors was established.
The town pastors seek to be a positive presence on the streets, available to offer support to vulnerable people and de-escalate potential trouble. “The volunteers are able to offer assistance to those who are feeling the effects of having had too much to drink and if possible, help people to find a way to get home safely.
They are also very well known for giving out bottled water and the small Freddo chocolate bars.
Jo Copsey, co-ordinator, who was awarded a BEM in 2015 for services to policing and community safety in Bury St Edmunds, said “I would like to extend a huge thank-you to all those people who have been involved as town pastors or prayer team members over the last 10 years.”
Superintendent Kim Markus Warner, western area commander with Suffolk Constabulary, said: “I never fail to be impressed by the dedication and commitment of the town pastors.
“It takes exceptional people to be prepared to work voluntarily during anti-social hours within the night time economy, identifying and interacting with people who are often isolated, intoxicated, and vulnerable.
“While it is undoubtedly the role of the police to protect the public, we cannot be everywhere at once, and so the pastors provide much needed help and support. “Without question their intervention helps protect the most vulnerable in society, and I am enormously grateful for all they do.”
Photos and article reproduced, as yet without permission, from the East Anglian Daily Times web-site. Read more: http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/bury-town-pastors-celebrate-10-years-of-patrolling-streets-of-bury-st-edmunds-1-5507127