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Salvation Army celebrates 40 years of supporting emergency services

PUBLISHED: 06:18 05 June 2018 | UPDATED: 06:18 05 June 2018

Volunteers from The Salvation Army's Suffolk Emergency Response Team (1978-2018) Picture: THE SALVATION ARMY

Volunteers from The Salvation Army's Suffolk Emergency Response Team (1978-2018) Picture: THE SALVATION ARMY

THE SALVATION ARMY

It was a celebration of heroes at the The Salvation Army church in Stowmarket – as volunteers met with frontline emergency service workers to mark 40 years of collaboration.

Guests were served a celebratory menu featuring favourites of Suffolk’s emergency services, including cheese and pickle sandwiches and hot dogs Picture: THE SALVATION ARMYGuests were served a celebratory menu featuring favourites of Suffolk’s emergency services, including cheese and pickle sandwiches and hot dogs Picture: THE SALVATION ARMY

Representatives from Suffolk’s emergency services, local councillors and senior leaders from the charity gathered on June 1 to mark the start of Volunteers’ Week – and celebrate four decades of The Salvation Army supporting frontline workers.

Throughout the last 40 years, the team has helped behind the scenes of a range of incidents across Suffolk including flooding, fires, aircraft crashes, traffic accidents and snow blocked roads – supporting emergency responders by serving refreshments, offering compassion and boosting morale.

In 2017, volunteers responded to 18 calls requesting Salvation Army support, serving 1,600 frontline workers more than 2,000 hot and cold drinks and turning 250 loaves of bread into sandwiches.

Major Derek Jones, regional leader of The Salvation Army, said: “As a Christian church and charity, we seek to alleviate distress wherever it is found. Today we celebrate Salvation Army volunteers who, throughout the past 40 years, have supported police men and women, fire personnel and ambulance crews with food, drinks and a listening ear at hundreds of incidents across Suffolk – some of which can be particularly harrowing and fraught, even for experienced blue light teams.

“We remain committed to the special partnership between The Salvation Army and Suffolk’s emergency services and will continue to support them as they respond to people in need and care for communities across the county.”

Tim Passmore, Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner, said: “The constabulary really appreciates the support of Salvation Army volunteers and officers given to the police during emergencies. They add a different and extremely worthwhile dimension to working with all emergency services in, what can often be, very difficult situations.

“The practical support of hot drinks and sandwiches, combined with the compassionate support makes a huge impact. In summary their contribution is invaluable.”

Ian Bowell, area commander for Suffolk Fire & Rescue Service, said: “The Salvation Army is a much valued partner, helping Suffolk Fire & Rescue Service resolve long complex incidents. They are always there, ready to help. The refreshments and support they supply to our operational and non-operational fire personnel are very welcome, timely and much appreciated by all.”

Paul Goodchild, acting senior locality manager for West Suffolk at East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, added: “The dedicated volunteers at The Salvation Army often provide much-needed welfare support for our frontline crews when they need it most at the scenes of major or protracted incidents, and most recently, during one of the harshest winters the NHS has ever seen.

“Making sure our hard-working frontline staff have a warm drink and a snack can really make a huge difference to morale at times like these so we thank The Salvation Army for all they do for us and other blue-light colleagues. Long may our partnership continue.”

The Salvation Army’s Suffolk emergency response coordinator, Mike Baker, explained the process for responding to calls from the emergency services.

“The on-duty volunteer coordinator carries a pager,” he said. “The emergency services control room will page to say they need us – it all depends on the number of people attending the incident and the duration they are needed.

“When we get the call, and it is often in the middle of the night, someone will go to the local supermarket and do a trolley dash to get the food while someone else gets the van ready. Then we meet up and within 40 minutes of the call we can be on the road to the incident. When we arrive we ask where they want us and then it’s all systems go.

“I formed the group back in 1978 following flooding in Wisbech - there was a call for volunteers to help. After that we wanted to do something a bit more formal to support. The Salvation Army has a long history of serving the armed forces and emergency services so as a church member of The Salvation Army I was then able to set up the response team.

“We go to serve the community, to bring cheer to the emergency workers, and to comfort those who have suffered loss. It’s God’s work with your sleeves rolled up – that’s how we look at it.”

Following speeches of appreciation, guests enjoyed a celebratory menu featuring favourites of Suffolk’s emergency services, including cheese and pickle sandwiches and hot dogs.

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