Army of community champs are vital back-up for Bridge for Heroes

Mayor's Business award winner Bridge for Heroes King's Lynn.''Mike Taylor (CEO) with Sharon Marsdon (Contact Centre Manager) and the  award. ANL-140514-103027001
Mayor's Business award winner Bridge for Heroes King's Lynn.''Mike Taylor (CEO) with Sharon Marsdon (Contact Centre Manager) and the award. ANL-140514-103027001
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An award-winning charity which has helped to put Lynn on the international map has its own army of community champions to thank for marching onwards and upwards.

The Bridge for Heroes, which has its Contact Centre in South Clough Lane, and its Military Experience Day and Education Centre (Medec) next to Lynn Library, is celebrating receiving one of the top accolades in the Mayor’s Awards for Business 2013.

Ex-Army veteran Mike Taylor, the charity’s CEO who has ceaselessly worked towards establishing the centres in the town, is in no doubt about who is responsible for the prestigious Contribution to the Community award.

“It was not just me winning the award – it was the whole community. I do not think people realise the tremendous impact they are having on serving or retired troops,” he said.

The Contact Centre, with its doors open, welcoming people off the street to wander in and look around, was set up four years ago. Its main aim was to identify post traumatic stress disorder in soldiers, sailors, airmen and their families. It helps people from across the UK and receives referrals from the Ministry of Defence. “Some people have been bordering on suicide and we have helped to keep them alive. We build up their resilience mentally and give them confidence to face all kind of things.

“We filter them and can help with a number of different issues. It might be readjusting to civilian life, housing, finding jobs or help with their service records, for instance.

“There are a number of artefacts around the centre, and people come in and begin talking about them. We involve the community heavily and the doors are open for anyone whether they have military links or not and they just want to come in, look around and reminisce.”

He said members of the Polish and Czech communities visit because of interest in their grandfathers who were in the UK, some flying for the RAF. while so many youngsters visit, they have formed their own junior troop.

“For an hour’s voluntary work, we will give out free tickets or vouchers for the cinema, theatre, swimming pools, bowling and scores of other activities too.” said Mike. “Parents are happy because they know their children are doing something constructive.”

The Medec Centre which opened in July, has been set up thanks to remarkable support from the community. “We have ahd help from many nationalities, including Polish, Lithuanian and Biritish, and people of all age groups. They has researched history, brought artefacts together and help by showing people around the exhibition. We are always pleased to hear from people interested in being curators,” said Mike.

“The centre has attracted interest from across the globe – Australia, Canada, South Africa, from people who may be on holiday and wish to visit. And our troops in Afghanistan have been watching us on TV. We have put King’s Lynn on the map.”

The charity recently received a £4,300 grant from West Norfolk Council towards marking the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War and in January it was awarded £103,000 from the MoD’s Libor Fund. The council’s money will be used to create an interactive display and an illustrated timeline detailing key dates throughout the war. Mike said he was also appealing for any offers of fake fruit and veg which could be used in the display. Call 0300 111 2030.

Bridge for Heroes is officially partnered with Help for Heroes, the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust and West Norfolk MIND. It also works with Combat Stress, Soldiers’, Sailors’, Airmen’s Families Association (SSAFA) and Freebridge Housing.

n Sponsors of the Contribution to the Community Award was Yours Sustainable Communities.