• Libby

Transcript - Giving Back to the Community, with Chris, Trustee and Volunteer at Hardie Park, Ep 17



Libby: You are listening to Constellations, the podcast connecting charities, communities and causes in the Essex unitaries of Thurrock & Southend. In today’s episode we are chatting to Chris, who is a trustee and volunteer at Hardie Park in Stanford-Le-Hope. Chris talks to us about all of the fab things going on at Hardie Park, as well as speaking about his role as a trustee.

Listen on to find out more about Hardie Park and find out how you can get involved!


Libby: Today we've come along to Hardie Park and we are joined by Chris, one of the trustees here. Thank you so much for having us today!

Chris: You're more than welcome. Hope we've looked after you with tea and coffee, etcetera

Libby: Very much so.

Sharen: Yes!

Chris: Good. That's what we're good at. That's what we're good at.

Libby: So, please, for anybody listening, who doesn't know what is Friends of Hardy Park and whereabouts is it?

Chris: Right. It's a community cafe, started by the community and predominantly run by the community. There's one or two paid staff these days because it is a business as well as a charity. We're in the heart of Stanford. Hardy Park is the heart of Stanford, we like to say. It’s at the bottom of Scratton Road, on the corner of Hardy Road. And for those who are driving its SS17 OPB. Which is really unhelpful because there's not many car parking spaces, that is probably our biggest issue is we haven't got many car parking spaces, so we do recommend people to walk to be quite honest.

What do we do? The park is a community cafe. It's a meeting place. It suffered a bit during Covid, which I'm sure will go into later. But in general it's a venue for the community. It's a lovely park. All year round we seem to get clients and customers coming in, and often it's just a meeting place for someone to sit down and talk and have a coffee. But they do keep fit outside as well as you've seen today as you come in. But we are the heart of Stanford, we like to think.

Libby: I definitely think so. It's my son's favourite place to come.

Chris: Excellent! Is he a skateboarder?

Libby: He rides his bicycle. He's only four.

Chris: Oh right. Oh right!

Libby: But he loves going round that little loop. We come here and he, he does that for like an hour.

Chris: Oh excellent! Lovely.

Libby: And our little girl likes going on the playground and then trying to copy him, going around on her bicycle.

Chris: Excellent. That's what it's about. Family and community.

Libby: Yes, we love it here.

Sharen: So this is the first time that I've been here.

Chris: Oh right.

Sharen: So for anyone listening could you describe what you what facilities you have here?

Chris: Yes, certainly. First of all, main thing from our point of view is the cafe. We have the cafe that serves hot and cold drinks, mainly a stack menu - it's not gourmet food here. It's fast food to a degree, depending what volunteers are on, sometimes it's not quite so fast…


Because, you know, they're lovely people here, but it is, it is what it is. You want a coffee from me, you'll get a fabulous coffee.


Don't ask for an omelette. I can't do omelettes to save my life, you know, so that won't happen. But yeah, so we've got the Community Cafe, which obviously has toilets as well. We've got two meeting rooms. we're in what we call the venue room or hire room, craft groups can come in here and hire out the room itself.


and then we got all the playground equipment you have to see. But we got the sort of sandpit we've got climbing frames. We got sort of swings. You can sit and write, and you often of small kiddies and then right over the far side of the park just before you go under the underpass. We've got the, uh, skate park where you can either write it on your BMX and do tricks. And we've got some fabulous guys who come here and teach youngsters how to do skateboarding and whatever really know. Yeah, you know, the young often get such a rubbish reputation, but yeah, I've heard of You know, I've had a lady come in here and say, and we had it posted on Facebook. I think she couldn't believe her son. First time he'd ever gotten there, and there was no ribbing or being unfriendly to them. They actually spent time showing them how to do it.

Sharen: Oh that’s incredible

Yeah, that is really nice, because I say often the youngsters get a lot of flak for that sort of thing. But as I say, that's the skate park. And then if you go under the underpass, not many people do. But we've got one of those sort of keep fit outside, doing type things. You know, the wooden you jump from this, you swing from that. I don't do it. Yeah, The underpass itself is a work of art because it is a graffitied underpass, which is really You should have a look before you go today. And then we got to keep fit train as they call it through there.

Fab. Yeah. So many things going on. Um, So how did it come to be

good question. I wasn't here right at the very beginning, But I know how it started because I was approached at the outset. I wasn't still in work at that time. I wasn't retired anymore. I hadn't retired but a local resident, Rob Groves. He started it up as a community project. I think he's been in this area for quite a while. And this park where my two Children went to ST Joe's next door. And in those days I'm going back about 8, 10 years. You came out Saint Joe's. You never turned right because it was a dingy park. There was burnt out motorbikes. Sometimes it had a bit of a needle problem and things like and I think he just sort of said, No, this ain't gonna happen anymore And he's going to change it for a long time. I think he just started picking litter, cleaning the place up, Um, and that sort of grew into a community project where we got donations. We got these buildings donated. Yeah, he got those. And then he got the community to build a decade outside. Everything we got, we got what we could done for nothing. In a sense, Um, and eventually I suppose, What is it now? 2022 5-6 years ago, we opened the cafe for the first time, fabulous band of volunteers to run it. And then from there it's grown into what it is now. It's had its ups and downs, obviously, like every business has recently. But yeah, that's how it starts. Just one guy's vision for want of a better word. Yeah, to change his local park. As I say, my son's used to come out, and we never came in here where ST Joe's Kids now in the Sun, is not tipping down with rain this first place. It's fabulous, you know, and they get the Ross Sea ice creams and various other bits and bobs or their Christmas, all the healthy options we do. There's lots of fruit out there, but for some reason they run for that.

But when you see the results and not being funny, I love seeing the people coming in and finding it useful as a community cafe. Yeah, just amazing. And I say that is something. The pop up shop has been so phenomenal during lockdown. I think even more recently with the pending doom have increased electricity and gas bills and things like that. You know, we we all often have queues outside, and it says, literally, if you take what you want and give if you can, because we do need to ask for a give you if you can, for want of a better word, we need to keep the van going and petrol and mots and wind screens and clutches, which went a couple of weeks, couple months here, No cost. But the guy who does it, James. He's a volunteer every day but 57 days a week. People just can't even feel that you feel the carrier bags. Yes, yeah, yeah, the flowers are out there. The cakes, cake, everything that you shouldn't eat is out there. I'll sit up when I say that, but yes, so we get donations from on a regular basis. It's Little's, Sainsbury's and Marks and Sparks, and their one day old sandwich is absolutely fine. Trust me. Absolutely gorgeous. And also we're now getting from, uh, did I say Sainsbury's You're gonna say this once, and for some reason the tendon coop has found us and they are delivering to us. But we're in talks with the local co op as well to try and recycle, because again, it's the important thing is it's not going into landfill. One of Katie's main projects is, uh, she's the refuel cabin lady, Um, and he's saving it going from landfill. If it doesn't go through the shop, there is then bagged up as you see behind you, and then the local pig farm comes and takes it. So it's another. It's another stage before it goes away. Not being funny. That pixie everything. Anything and everything. That's amazing. Not only doing this amazing community work, but you're also helping the moment. Well, that's the whole idea. Yeah, abso

So you said that you were approached from the beginning. That's right. Yes. So what swayed you? How did you get involved? I started seeing it sort of taking shape of session. By then I'd actually retired and I sort of came down. I think robbed approached me at first to be a volunteer. And then once I was about yeah, I was doing a couple of days a week, which I still do behind the counter, making the coffees and sandwiches and the realms and whatever And then, I don't know, a year and today he said, You will become a trustee because I sort of sales and marketing experience. And that's what my pet is here. I'm on the, you know, with the knees who does most of that. She's the clever one in the in the duo. She's the one who does all the Facebook posts and Twitter and insta and all that. I don't understand that, but I feel that the photographs and we come up with plans were sort of topics or whatever, and that's where we get our public awareness. Basically, Um, so, yeah, I became a trustee. I think it's probably three years ago now, and here I am still here, enjoying it as much as we can.

So you want trustees. What happens what? Being a trustee entail. It doesn't. It doesn't even tell a massive amount in a regular meeting once a month. What we're trying to do is encourage trustee to actually get involved with the cafe a bit more bit like myself. Actually be there because you'd be surprised the number of times will have an issue come up from either the community or the volunteers. And if you've not got the experience of what's going on in the cafe, a ground level for a better world, you probably don't understand what the problem is. It's very easy to sit in a up high and looking at the zoo meet at the moment. We're doing everything, Um, zoom, meeting once a month and try and deal with the problem you're not really familiar with. But when we look at the trustees, it's literally probably should be an hour. A month always ends up as about two hours with a tea break and a blue break or a glass of wine break, which you have seen a few glasses. Yeah, exactly. Um, and then it's It's really where your skill is. My my skill was it sounds on marketing. Um So that's why I take over the sort of Facebook media side with Chinese. And then we got another one who is very much an account side, a person, another person who's a HR kind of person. So we have all the same problems as a business in a sense or challenges as a business, because we got we're employing staff. Although we're not paying them well. We do pay one or two, but you still have staff issues. So you need someone who can do that legally and everything else. Yes, really. What if you're interested in becoming a trustee? Just look at our Facebook page or our Web page, and there's a link explaining exactly what happens and how you can help and how much time how much time you give is up to you, in a sense. But what we do find in general, um, if you've got a skill and you can use it and donate it back, it's giving something back to the community. That's the way I personally see it that way because you know, my kids, as I used to go to ST Joseph's, I've been in this area all my married life I brought up yourself London. I moved out here, but now I'd like to think if my kids ever had kids, which at the moment they're not going that way. But if they did, they'd be bringing them here, you know? So, yeah, it's a nice job trustee, because you're in a sense, it doesn't have to be a full time job. Sometimes it can get a bit, and sometimes those problems. But if you've got a particular skill that you want to bring to the park, yeah, put in a sense, we have a master chef to come in here. You can do it like you master chefs listening. We could do that like art venues as well, but yeah, so it's all about what you want to give But the more skills we have and I say, the more it can be shared. There would be much better.

So what is the men’s shed?

It's literally it's I was saying dear to my heart, but it's not. I'm not doing yourself. So there you go, however, what happens in life and I'm talking as a my generation more than yours. The man used to go to work in London, probably, or in South End or whatever lived in Stanford. No money retired. He came back here and had no real friends because all his friends were at work or not many of them. Let's let's put it that way. So this was a place for them to get together and build bird boxes and learn how to do it yourself and things like that and talk. And I think that's probably the more important aspect of it because we've had a debate about it, how quick we can start up because we feel there's a men don't talk about mental issues. They really don't. And I'm just as bad and funny enough. I was only going to chat with my son a couple of days back just on that subject and how vital it is to get that, because men are always hold it in and whatever. But this was an environment where I want to say they out and out started talking about shocking mental issues, but they knew they could if they wanted to. Yeah, exactly. It's a stepping stone to go towards that and something that they wouldn't do in front of a lady or a woman for any reason at all. Even if they've got a wife indoors or a partner or so it's just it was. That's quite a vital part of the community, and I know we've had a lot of expressions of interest, and when is it going to start up again. And it's not all about bird boxes. It's a skill thing. If I was a do it yourself or I'd love it there and I used to work in sort of thunders, in essence. But I used to travel up to Leeds, and I used to travel to carriage on a very regular basis. So when I retired, apart from, if you didn't have the park, I would be one of those guys looking for friends around here because most of my friends were at work. So that's and that's what it's all about. Handicrafts again, That's a donation thing. We've had all the tools and equipment donated. We got stacks of wood donated so they can make whatever they like, and they can learn a skill, do a bit of D f D N Y. And the important thing is, there's an opportunity to chat bloke to bloke.

But we'd like to do more if we have more bodies, what we've got to be very mindful of, especially the trustee and from my point of view, as a volunteer, you want to give your time, but you can only give so much. I'd rather have 50 volunteers, all given two hours, each one volunteer giving 20 hours because it's tiring. And if you start not to enjoy, everything is affected by that. The way you greet people, when they come in the way you serve them the way you feel when you go home. It's all about if we're not looking for volunteers because we don't want to pay wages were looking. The volunteer aspect is as important to the volunteer as it is to us because it is getting them. Yeah, invariably at the moment, apart from Saturday's, when we have a few youngsters in it is more mature people. But we'd love to have a much younger crew. You know, we've got a couple of 16 17 year olds. We've got a young girl who comes in. She's from thoracic college. I think What's it called Palmers? And she's a lovely girl and she loves it here. But she's only doing it for her six weeks, whatever it is, some training type thing we always encourage. And, yeah, we had one recently. He was doing just that six weeks. But then she continued, and a year later she was still coming in every Saturday morning, which is fabulous and she came in. Why? Because she enjoyed it, you know, And that's the thing. So more volunteers with big the answer to all our prayers. We could then start lots more clubs. We can't run an evening games club because someone has to unlock and lock up and manage it, and even the shifts are pretty tough. But Tuesdays or Thursdays give it again. You see, the room is not being used today, apart from us. Mhm. So that's good to know that you don't need to have a huge time commitment If you want to know. I think that's probably the better way in all fairness to it, because pandemic or no pandemic and whatever you do in life, everything seems to be so busy. You know, I've never been so businesses have been retired sometimes. My mom I just wish I

So we'll pop in the show notes for this episode All of the different clubs that you've got going on here. Can you let us know if people want to get in contact and follow along where you are on social?

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that's an easy one. The Facebook page is passionate about Hardy Park, and that is posting. We don't post every single day. We were during lockdown, I think, quite frequent, just to remind people we're still here. And we hope to be here afterwards. Instagram is love. Hardy Park. Um, Twitter is at love Hardy Park and the website, which has got everything on its got all our clubs. It's got our monthly newsletter we put out, and if you want to join that, just send a send a note into that Web site, but it's friends of Hardy Park dot co dot UK. And that way you can say that's probably the best site. The website, because that's got everything on it. It's got the volunteers. It's got the trustee application. It's got a volunteer application form if you want to. I know everything we've done to the last probably four or five years.

Fantastic. So it's got the history of hardy power as well. Right? Well, thank you so much for talking to.

You're more than welcome


Thank you for tuning into the episode, we hope you enjoyed learning more about Hardie Park! If you would like to find out more about volunteering or becoming a trustee, check out the show notes for the episode at constellations-podcast.org. And if you haven’t already heard it, check out our previous episode with Carol who also volunteers at Hardie Park.

Remember to tune into our next episode on Tuesday. Until then take care, bye!

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