Free service taking root in town centre

Some of the volunteers who provide the Mighty Oaks coffee and tea trailer in Morpeth's Market Place serve residents during a Saturday night.
Some of the volunteers who provide the Mighty Oaks coffee and tea trailer in Morpeth's Market Place serve residents during a Saturday night.

A FRIENDLY service for people out on a Saturday night in Morpeth has celebrated its fifth anniversary.

A group of Christian volunteers run a coffee trailer called Mighty Oaks in the Market Place to reach out but not preach to those letting their hair down and workers.

Those who receive the free drinks, which also include tea and hot chocolate, have the opportunity to discuss things going on in their life with the team if they so wish.

One of the volunteers, Stewart Evans, said: “In 2008, Morpeth did have a reputation for heavy drinking on Saturday nights with its pubs, bars and clubs, and we felt we needed to take some action rather than just saying words.

“Matthew Curry came up with the idea for the trailer as it would give us a central presence in the town. We did some fund-raising before we started because we wanted to provide high-quality coffee and we managed to bring in £12,000 for the vehicle and coffee equipment – a large amount of which came from Morpeth Baptist Church.

“Although the clubs have gone, there are still many late bars open and we hand out about 100 cups every Saturday.

“As well as the people out drinking, we give them out to taxi drivers, door staff and the workers in the pizzerias and chip shops.

“When we first started, we had to persuade people that the drinks were free as they couldn’t believe that there was no charge. We don’t push anything we believe, it’s all about them and they can have a chat with us or simply walk away.

“We use a rota system and do team training to ensure that we provide a consistent service. The police welcomed us when we started and we continue to have a good relationship with them.”

Last Saturday was its fifth birthday and the volunteers invited some of their supporters to come along to show them the service in action. They also gave out biscuits to those working on the night and the regulars.

The name Mighty Oaks comes from a passage in the Bible (Isaiah 61 v1-3) which encourages Christians to support people in their community.

Following the success of the Morpeth initiative, a van service started in Alnwick two years ago.

Mr Evans added: “We’ve had a calming effect and our presence in the Market Place means people generally don’t want to cause trouble in this area.

“On a few occasions we have needed to calm down those who have gone a bit over the top and we alert the police if there is any hint of violence. We also help people who can’t find their way home.

“All the donations we receive from friends, churches and the public go towards the following week’s drinks.

“In the future, we hope to enhance the venture by involving more Christians and churches from the area.”

The Mighty Oaks volunteers also run a community football project in Longhorsley.

The purpose is for participants to enjoy the game and get to know local people. It is available on Monday evenings for those aged between 15 and 50.