Suffolk Salvation Army celebrate 40 years of aiding emergency services
Suffolk’s Salvation Army volunteer team celebrated 40 years of aiding emergency services.
On Friday, representatives from Suffolk’s emergency services, local councillors and senior leaders from The Salvation Army, gathered to mark the work done in the last 40 years within Suffolk.
The event took place at the Stowmarket Salvation Army Church and community centre on Violet Hill.
As well as refreshments being served from the Salvation Army van that is used to help the emergency services when in need and to offer some relief, speeches were given by Major Derek Jones, regional leader of the Salvation Army, Debbie Charles, of community services, and Mike Baker, emergency response coordinator.
Derek said: “It’s been 40 years since we first started work between the Salvation Army and emergency services. We have a terrific partnership with the emergency services, there is a lovely level of trust between the two groups.”
The group was started 40 years ago by Mike, with the group of 15 team members on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week on a rota basis, with the help of a pager and Whatsapp group.
The response team has been behind the scenes at a range of accidents and incidents across Suffolk, including street and house flooding, residential and commercial fires, ship fires, police search parties, aircraft crashes, traffic accidents and snow blocked roads, as well as supporting other emergency services incident exercises.
Tom Stokes, 23, of Stowmarket, one of the volunteers in the team, said: “I was a part of the Salvation Army Church and I was asked to help out. Probably the biggest event I have volunteered for was the tidal surge in Lowestoft. We turned up to offer the emergency services some food and drinks before the tidal surge was supposed to hit.”
To studied public services at West Suffolk College which, he said, was one of the reasons he joined the team.
Pat Baker, of Stowmarket, is also an active member of the team. Pat, who is married to Mike, said: “Mike came up with the idea and as I’m married to Mike, I wanted to help as well.”
Mike said: “As well as offering relief to the emergency services we also offer compassionate support to the community, for example we once helped a family who had taken their dog for a walk and returned to find their house on fire. When we get the call it is often in the middle of the night.”
He said he formed in 1978 after flooding in Wisbech.
“After this we wanted to do something a bit more formal to support, and with the history of the Salvation Army and as a Church member I was able to set up the response team,” he said.