The Bar’N’Bus team at Grays Beach was one year old last week!
Members of the team gathered at Grays Baptist Church Hall on the evening of Monday 26 April for an informal party. The team’s ‘head chef’ Len Stockwell had made a hug vat of vegetable curry which was tucked into heartily. Other members brought other food, and there was copious amounts of pudding for everyone.
The team have faithfully served the community and young people of south Grays. Apart from at Christmas and on a couple of other occasions, the bus has gone out every week now since April 2009.
Transformation Thurrock spoke with Grays Beach Bar’N’Bus team leader (and bus driver) Gary Jones, and team members Edwin Hughes, Mary Stockwell, Ngozi & Gordy Omolaiye.
TT: Gary and Edwin, the Grays Beach Bar’N’Bus team is celebrating its first birthday this week. How many are in the team and what churches are represented by the team?
GJ & EH: The team of about 16 members is made up of volunteers from Grays Baptist Church, Thurrock Christian Fellowship’s Grays Congregation and City Gates Christian Centre, Ilford.
TT: Ngozi and Gordy, what drew you all the way from Ilford to get involved in the bus team?
N&GO: We live on Grove Road, a few metres away from Seabrooke Rise. We attended the Thurrock Christian Fellowship Street Party in the Summer. We got on the bus and we were impressed with the work going on there. We have always wanted to get involved with Christian community activities in Thurrock, so we went along to the next four meetings. We felt connected immediately and made up minds by the first meeting to be part of it.
TT: Mary, what have been the positives of being in the team?
MS: Being with such a diverse group who all believe in the same thing.
GJ: The support we have for each other. Having a sense of humour, being able to have a laugh together.
Everybody has different gifts which all work together well.
EH: Great unity between different churches. Brilliant friendship that has developed between all members of the team.
TT: Have there been any negatives?
MS: Only the really cold nights!
EH: When the Bus is not able to go out. (Bad weather or mechanical problems etc). Feel upset for the young people when this happens.
TT: How has the team found with working with the young people on the streets?
GJ: We have been well received – they seem to have respect for us and they value us being there.
MS: It has been a privilege.
EH: Positive and rewarding. Some fantastic relationships have been developed between the team and the young people who have come on board. Family is the word that best describes the atmosphere of the Grays Bus, which some of the young people have also said to us.
TT: What is the catchment area of the Grays Beach bus?
EH: Seabrooke Rise is where the majority of the young people come from but some have come from further afield particularly in the summer months with young people from throughout Grays coming down to the park area.
TT: Have you had any funny moments over the past year?
MS & EH: There have been many moments where we have laughed and had a joke on the Bus between team members.
GJ: Having to Dress up as Santa!
TT: Have you had any hairy experiences?
GJ: Trying to get in and out of the police compound (in Tilbury Docks, where the bus is kept) and parking it. Smashing the window on the bus (Gary clipped the compound gates on the way out one night)! Also getting caught in a road closure and having to reverse the bus back along Palmers Avenue (in Grays) under the watchful eye of a police officer when only a few months into my driving.
EH: Not Really.Never really felt threatened by any of the young people that have come on to date. After feeling a bit apprehensive at the start really feel quite comfortable working in this environment now, especially with the team that we have in place.
TT: How do you get on with the locals?
GJ: The Seabrooke Rise community house have asked us to be involved in a number of events over the course of the year and we seem to be building up contacts with people working in the community.
EH: As far as I can remember we have only ever had one complaint over the last year. We have had a lot of positive comments though.
TT: How have you been celebrating the team’s first birthday?
GJ, MS & EH: We had a team get together over a meal on the 26 April with lots of fun games.
TT: Did you have a birthday party on the bus with the young people?
GJ: We had a birthday cake and with a candle, lots of extra food and drink and the kids sang happy birthday and blew out the candle on the cake.
TT: Do you have any plans for further outreach?
GJ: To be involved in more community events this year (the Grays Beach Bar’N’Bus team have already been an integral part of a few community events on Kilverts Field in Argent Street).
EH: We’re always open to God’s prompting in this area.
TT: How can we pray for the team?
GJ: For the continued health of the team, for safety while we are out on the streets, for developing relationships with the young people, for wisdom in knowing how to deal with situations.
MS: Pray for the continued good team spirit. Pray that the good relationships we have with the young people go from strength to strength.
Edwin adds that he has just been offered the opportunity to be on the steering committee of DARE (Drug and Alcohol Recovery Extension) Group that has been set up by service users at OASIS whom the services believe no longer need their support but they themselves feel that they still need a support group. He says, “I have provisionally offered to get on board as a rep for the church in support of the group as opposed to the Carers Centre as originally planned by them and they seemed quite open to that. Need some prayer just to make sure this is the right move for me. Think a Christian representation in this group could be beneficial would like some input from God to clarify this!”
Pictures top to bottom:
- The team prepare to tuck into Len’s curry
- Edwin Hughes, Harold Hoyte & Pete Lawton’s team in the “Alphabet” game
- Ngozi Omolaiye and Len & Mary Stockwell enjoying the curry
- Hannah Lawton (the team’s youngest member), Ros Bennet & Bev Hoyte’s team for the party games
- Gary Jones at Christmas!
- Alan Claughan bites into one of his ‘homemade’ naan breads…
- Pete Lawton can’t resist a nice bit of pudding – everyone’s staring because this was his third helping!
>>> More Bar’N’Bus drivers required for the teams at Grays Beach, Corringham Town Centre and West Thurrock!
>>> Volunteers needed from all churches across the borough to create a new team for Tilbury (probably on a Monday night).