Jo Copsey had the privilege of representing Bury Town Pastors at the Stars of Suffolk Awards Ceremony on 8th November 2018, along with representatives of Town Pastors Central and other Suffolk Town Pastor schemes.
Town Pastors in Suffolk were presented with the ‘Volunteer of the Year’ award. This award recognises and celebrates the dedication and commitment of Town Pastors across Suffolk
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.”
The Mayor of St Edmundsbury went on patrol with a group of volunteers who help keep people safe in Bury St Edmunds town centre during an evening.
At the weekend, Cllr Julia Wakelam joined the Bury Town Pastors who offer a helping hand most Friday and Saturday nights from 10pm to 4am.
She has also given them a £150 grant towards their running costs.
She said: “Being out on patrol with the pastors was a real eye opener for me in terms of seeing just how invaluable their work is. Young people, and some not so young, benefit from the presence of the town pastors when they come into Bury town centre for a night out.
“The town is lucky to have such dedicated volunteers who give their time to assist people in distress and help keep our streets safe.”
The pastors have been operating in the town since May 2008, and are made up of Christian volunteers from more than 30 churches in Bury and the surrounding area. In the year up to the end of March, they were involved in handling more than 6,600 incidents.
Their work includes picking up and disposing of bottles that could be used as a weapon, calming potentially violent situations, and waiting with vulnerable people until their lift home arrives. The pastors have also alerted West Suffolk council’s CCTV service and the police to potential situations, while they have handed out foil sheets to keep people warm.
Jo Copsey, co-ordinator for the Pastors, said: “Our role is to help make the town centre a safer place by providing a friendly presence on the streets which is neither judgemental nor confrontational.”
For more on the Bury Town Pastors visit www.burytownpastors.org.uk
One of the founders of Bury St Edmunds’ Town Pastor service has been honoured in the New Year Honours.
Jo Copsey, of West Row, has been awarded the British Empire Medal ‘for services to policing and community safety in Bury St Edmunds’. The citation says her efforts in recruiting, training and ensuring the scheme’s long term viability have been crucial.
It adds: “She is a real galvaniser for community activity and her enthusiasm and dedication is infectious, with the local partners all fulsome in their praise of her efforts.”
Jo admits when she first opened the letter from the Cabinet Office in November, she thought it was a hoax.“It was totally unexpected,” she said. “I was speechless – I had not ever imagined I would get anything like this.”
Town Pastors support people leaving bars and restaurants in the late evening who are vulnerable.
Jo said: “It can mean they’re drunk or they may be vulnerable because they’ve become separated from their friends or are distressed.
“It is such a privilege to be able to offer care and support to people when they find themselves in a predicament.”
Jo and a few others had been looking at whether there was a need for a Town Pastor service in Bury. She trained with the Ipswich team and Bury’s town pastors’ first night on duty was May 2, 2008.
She has since helped set up services in seven other towns. The 35 volunteers who go out in Bury are backed by about 60 in a prayer team. The volunteers come from about 30 Suffolk churches.
A SCHEME which supports those who are vulnerable on a night out in Bury St Edmunds has been celebrated at a special service.
Five years of the Bury Town Pastors initiative was marked at a thanksgiving service at St Mary’s Church in the town on Sunday.
Since May 2, 2008, the town pastors have been patrolling the club and bar areas of the town centre on Friday and Saturday nights between 10pm and 4am, wearing high-visibility yellow coats and navy blue caps or hats.
They offer support to vulnerable people – who may be feeling the effects of alcohol – and, if possible, help them to find a way to get home safely. They also defuse potential trouble, which helps to make the town a safer place.
Co-ordinator Jo Copsey said “Over the last five years we have met so many lovely people when we’ve been out as town pastors and it is a privilege to be able to offer help when someone is in need.”
The town pastors, who are supported in prayer while they are out on the streets, aim to be a positive presence by being friendly, non-judgemental and non-confrontational.
Over the last five years the town pastors have helped people in more than 5,500 situations and ensured the safety of more than 450 people totally incapacitated by alcohol.
They have removed more than 3,600 bottles and glasses – potential weapons – from the streets. They have also given out more than 4,800 Freddo chocolate bars and 3,400 bottles of water.
The Bury Town Pastors has volunteers from 32 churches.
Ms Copsey 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 five years.”
Ric Groves, chairman of the Bury St Edmunds Pubwatch scheme, said: “The town pastors are a familiar sight on the streets of Bury St Edmunds each weekend and I have witnessed first-hand the service they provide and the professionalism in which they conduct themselves.
“I can speak for myself and the rest of the Pubwatch community which I represent in saying that the service they provide is invaluable in making Bury St Edmunds a safer place and long may it continue.”
Town pastors have been supporting people out on Friday and Saturday night in Bury over the Bank Holiday weekend.
In Suffolk, the town pastors scheme began in Ipswich and has been followed by groups of volunteers across the county.