OF all the many community groups in Thurrock few are as active in their neighbourhood as the Friends of Hardie Park in Stanford-le-Hope who are getting ready for a return to ‘normal’ as the coronavirus rules are relaxed.
But the cafe at the park won't be opening just yet - despite 'Super Saturday' as it is adopting a safety first policy.
However the park's cycle repair service is open.
The charity, which goes back to 2009 when local people decided it was time to turn the run down park into a functioning, vibrant community asset, is a real co-operative of local people and businesses working together – so much so it is currently a nominated charity by two branches of the Co-op in the area!
The park now plays host to a café and community resource, a bike shop and has a renovated recreation area with play equipment – plus a Pétanque terrain.
The charity is run by a large group of volunteers, and has grown so much it now has paid staff on a part time basis and has even been able to offer an apprenticeship to a local young man to run its ‘Old Spokes Home’ a renovation and recycling centre for cycles.
The Co-op recognised its community values matched its own and both its stores in High Street Stanford and Gardner Avenue in Corringham and currently it benefits from revenue generated by the Co-op's community fund, with store members selecting it as one of three chosen charities to receive one per cent of all sales of selected items.
That is a gesture hugely appreciated by the park’s CEO Rob Groves who said: “We’ve always had a great relationship with the Co-op, they are always looking for ways to support local organisations like ours. At this difficult time it’s good to know that we have support from others who share our values.
Though it was initially hoped to keep the café and community centre open during coronavirus, social distance guidelines eventually made that impossible and it had to close down.
Rob hopes it won’t be long before all the services at the park are available once again as it has proved, over more than a decade to be a vital and much-loved service to the local community. But the cafe is not likely to open for a couple of weeks at least.
Rob added: “Rob added: “We will be making tentative and careful plans to reopen, ensuring the safety of our community, but with the help of our wonderful community we will survive to serve them again.”
For more information on the Friends of Hardie Park click here.