UNIFORMED Good Samaritans who help make young people feel safe in Taunton late at night have won Royal approval.
Taunton Street Pastors, a team of 60 volunteers from 20 local churches, have been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
Co-ordinator Adrian Prior-Sankey said the accolade was the equivalent of a person earning the MBE.
He added: “While we don’t do the work for praise, it’s very much appreciated when the hard work and dedication of our team of volunteers is recognised by others.
“To be one of very few groups across the country to receive this award is simply awesome. We are grateful to all those who have been on the journey with us over the last six years.”
Taunton Street Pastors was launched in 2008 by local Christians unhappy at reports of late-night anti-social behaviour in the town centre.
Volunteers aged 21 to 80 patrol the town in teams every Saturday night and on other significant occasions such as Taunton Carnival, the Olympic Torch visit and the vigil for the M5 tragedy, offering a listening ear, care and practical help.
They have provided support for over 25,000 revellers, homeless people and children in the past 6½ years, including handing out free flip flops, bottled water and foil hoodies.
The citation for their award praises them for “dealing with the issues of vulnerable people and helping to diffuse aggressive situations”.
The pastors run a ‘Safe Space’ street cafe outside North Street Church where people can meet as they wait for their lift home.
The service was expanded to cover the Flood Distribution centre near Bridgwater during and long after the bad weather at the start of the year.
Taunton Street Pastors, who are funded by local churches and donations from community groups and statutory bodies, patrolled the town’s streets between 10pm and 4am at weekends for a total of 3,401 hours last year.
Amongst other practical activities they picked up and disposed of 2,145 bottles and cans, while handing out 508 free pairs of flip flops people without shoes.