Did you know that Essex has a ‘High Sheriff?’

I came back from annual leave to find that the Restore Community Centre had been nominated for a visit from the High Sheriff of Essex, Simon Hall.

A voluntary role, he is the 837th High Sheriff of the county and works with charities, emergency services and the judiciary. His particular interest is social exclusion, such as homelessness and how people from traditional backgrounds can aspire in life.

So what was the visit like? – No pomp and ceremony!

He was accompanied by Andrew Clarke, a grants officer from Essex Community Foundation and Julie Chandler Assistant Director of Community Services and Safety at Epping Forest District Council – and there was actually  no ‘pomp and ceremony.’  It was a pleasure to introduce them to the work of the Community Centre.

They were held up by some of the roadworks in the area, so I wondered if they would cut short their visit to try to claw back some time, but in fact they stayed for longer than we anticipated.
He – along with Andrew Clarke – asked staff some very astute and perceptive questions. He was a very good listener, not just to staff and volunteers but also to people in the Centre. He spent time listening to people battling with various problems – homelessness, alcoholism, chronic ill health, and also people who would describe themselves as just ordinary people in Debden.



Afterwards Julie Chandler said ‘Thank you for all of your hard work, which is clearly so very important for your visitors, the High Sheriff (Simon) and CE of the Community Foundation (Andrew) were extremely impressed.’

Simon Hall tweeted: ‘Visit to Restore Community Centre Debden. Safe place for all, non-judgmental care, guidance and information (and tea)’. He commented ‘The Community Centre is a wonderful facility and the warmth and care was palpable. I enjoyed meeting the people in the centre – such a variation in background and need, but all benefiting from the community you have created.’

We felt genuinely encouraged. Huge thanks to Matt and the volunteers for helping to make the afternoon so successful.