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CNI Network: Community Heroes

Each month in 2020 CNI Network and Inspire Magazine are to feature a Community Hero. These are individuals or groups within CNI Network’s family of local projects who are bringing positive change to others and communities.

In January we started with Glennis Hobbs who is a 73-year-old volunteer with Skipton Street Angels.

Glennis, a retired Methodist preacher, has dedicated much of her life to helping others and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

As well as conducting pastoral visits to people in her village she, amongst other things, volunteers at her local library, officiates at the Hot Chocolate Club for eight to 11-year-olds each Friday at Embsay Methodist Church and was instrumental in setting up a weekly playgroup for mums and children in Hetton.

Glennis

Another string to Glennis’ bow has been her involvement with Skipton Street Angels; a group organised through Churches Together to offer reassurance and help to people in Skipton each Saturday night.

The Street Angels celebrated its 10th-anniversary last year and operate under the motto ‘helping people keep safe at night’.

Glennis said:

“I enjoy volunteering and helping, though I am far from alone. There are many people in the district who happily give their time for all sorts of reasons and to many different organisations.

“Being a part of Skipton Street Angels has been particularly enjoyable, though I only go along perhaps once a month these days as I get older.

“We meet at St Andrew’s Church at 9pm and patrol the town until around 1am. We can cover quite a distance but really the only requirements to become part of the group are the ability to walk slowly and the ability to eat cake. Someone always brings cake,” she said.

“Ideally we go out in two groups of three, with at least one man in each group, though on the last occasion I went out there were only five of us.

“Sometimes there are too few and we can’t patrol. We are always on the lookout for more people to join us, from all walks of life and of all ages.

“We walk around the town, keeping an eye out for people and often pick up glasses and bottles – up to 1,500 each year – so people don’t injure themselves on them and to stop them being used as weapons.

“On occasion, we stop to help someone who appears to be worse for wear. We carry a foil blanket to keep them warm if they are unwell, as well as sick bags and mop-up kits.

“We will guide people to taxis and ring for an ambulance if someone has been injured. On occasion, we have had to ring for the police.

“The police, in turn, have told us they appreciate our presence and stop and have a word when they see us.

“Many of the young ones we see out and about also make a point of shouting hello to us when they see our high-vis jackets and we know that our presence often helps to diffuse certain situations before they get out of hand.

“One memorable occasion when we helped someone was one evening seeing a young man zig-zagging along the canal towpath.

“We approached him to have a word and he said he had no idea where he was. We feared he would end up in the canal so walked with him towards Skipton hospital where he was able to then find his way home.

“We have seen people worse for wear at the bus station after a night out and helped them get a taxi and on other occasions, people have come up to us and told us we helped save their life. We are there to help anyone who may be in need.”

Details of the work Skipton Street Angels do can be found at www.skiptonchurches.org.uk/streetangels

They can also be found on Twitter at @AngelsSkipton

February’s Community Hero is Conrad Andrews. Conrad is 37 and lives in Keighley and has volunteered for Halifax Street Angels and various Festival Angels over the last 11 years.

Conrad became involved in Street Angels through his brother Damian who was a very active volunteer in Halifax.

Conrad remembers:

“I worked in the night club industry and saw the damage that alcohol and illegal substances could do to people on a night out so wanted to help make a change in Halifax town centre.

“When I heard about the move to Festival Angels I wanted to help out at that and since then have volunteered at Leeds Festival, Boardmasters and Mint and are planning to be at Big Church Day Out, Wildfires, Kendal Calling, Leeds and Mint this year.”

Volunteering has helped Conrad to deal with anxiety issues and to gain teamwork experience.

He said:

“I have learnt not to be judgmental and to look beyond the initial perception and listen to and understand the issues that the person is dealing with.”

Because of his experiences of Street Angels and Festival Angels Conrad applied to volunteer at Streamside Camp and Conference Centre, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Here he worked with children from the inner-cities of Philadelphia.

“Many of the children’s parents were in prison so the children often had issues such as anger and depression. My role was that of counsellor, activity leader as well as sharing about my faith.”

Conrad volunteered at the Streamside Camp and Centre over two summers.

Conrad became a Christian in May 1998 and was baptised on the 6th June that year at Lee Mount Baptist Church, Halifax. Gradually work took over life which resulted in his faith been put on a back burner.

Conrad came back to faith in 2010 through his involvement in Street Angels and through a friends invite to an event. Conrad then started to attend All Saints’ Church in Halifax and became involved in The Gathering Place, a project that runs the Food and Support Drop-In and offers support to those who are homeless and those wanting to overcome addiction. Conrad volunteered as the caretaker from 2012 to 2018.

In 2018 Conrad attended University for a course on TV Production and was invited to start a Christian Union, which he ran for a year. This involved outreach on campus from ‘text for a toastie’ to raising money for charity.

Conrad added:

“Doing Festival Angels I have dealt with several issues, mainly because of overindulgence on drink or drugs.

“One year we could see a spike in drug use at the festivals and the following year the issue has moved to alcohol, not drugs.

“Once you help someone you see what a difference it makes and how thankful people helped are that someone cares.”

“A simple act such as helping put up a tent or sitting chatting over a coffee in the Prayer Cafe shows that people are valued enough to spend that moment with them.”

Conrad

Conrad shared that the most memorable moments for him were in Lost Property at Leeds Festival.

“One guy had a wallet handed in with £200 in cash. The joy on his face when he was reunited with the wallet and cash was great to see and the man said that it had helped restore his faith in humanity and people.”

Conrad highly recommends getting out and volunteering as it opens up a whole new world that may even take you to America!

For more information on Festival Angels visit festivalangels.org.uk or search Festival Angels on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow our monthly Community Heroes at cninetwork.org/community-heroes