A GROUP of Christians, who provide hot drinks and comfort to late-night revellers in Alnwick, has upped its game with the purchase of a coffee van.
And Mighty Oaks, which has been running a stall in the Market Place on Thursday nights since May, is moving to Saturday nights with the first being this weekend between 11pm and 1am.
Then subject to permission from the council’s highways department, they will be there with their van on Saturdays from January 21 between 11pm and 2am.
Inspired by a similar group in Morpeth, which has been active since late 2008, the Alnwick group started running its service on Thursdays because it had to borrow the Morpeth group’s trailer.
In August, Mighty Oaks in Alnwick decided to finance its own van so Saturday nights could be covered and managed to raise £9,000 thanks to donations from Alnwick Lions, the Multi Agency Crime Prevention Initiative (Macpi), churches and individuals.
The group’s Chris Friend said: “It’s a group of Christians trying to demonstrate God’s love in a practical way.
“There’s no catch and it’s not to try to draw people into church.
“It’s helping out in an environment where people feel comfortable and that’s been the ethos from the start.
“We are working closely with the police and the inspector is very positive about what we are doing.
“Over the last six months we have had people come to us who have maybe had too much to drink, homeless people, people who are lonely or people who have been out for a meal and come along for a chat.
“Alnwick still very much has a strong community. It’s very unusual for the volunteers not to know someone who comes up to the van in one context or another.
“It’s to do with being out there and not being police, but people who the general public can see objectively and hopefully offering a safe place to be.”
And the run-up to Christmas seems like an ideal time to be out on a Saturday night for the first time.
“In the build-up to Christmas, you have people out enjoying themselves but equally for some people Christmas can be a painful experience,” Chris said. “We want to be available to them too.”
Alnwick Neighbourhood Police Inspector Sue Peart said: “They provide a really invaluable service because some people have had a lot to drink and it can make them vulnerable. A hot drink can help sober them up.”
Mighty Oaks has a volunteer base of around 25 with four or five people needed each week to serve drinks and be there to have a chat.
The group would like to cover both Thursday and Saturday nights but need more volunteers to do so.