BRIDGWATER’S Westfield Church rest centre for flood victims closed its doors for the first time in almost two weeks at 10pm on Thursday.
The doors would open again at 6am the next day, but it marked the first time since opening at 2am on Friday, February 7, that the centre would not be open 24/7.
Over the past few weeks 141 people from 80 households hit by the floods have gone through its doors with countless more arriving not because they had to evacuate their homes, but because they had items to donate to flood victims.
Lucy Richards, one of the many rest centre managers, said: “The rest centre has been a real hub of activity and we’ve had donations of all sizes – a lot of the stuff here comes from supermarkets, but more comes from ordinary people.”
Lucy is one of the 15 rolling rest centre managers from Sedgemoor District Council who run the centre with a large number of volunteers from various organisations.
Along with Sedgemoor staff there are representatives from social services, volunteers from the Royal Voluntary Service and the St John Ambulance, a South-West Ambulance Mobile Treatment Service, the British Red Cross, multi-faith chaplains and Salvation Army volunteers.
Lucy said: “We’ve had people from all walks of life come to donate – people from towns, people from villages, people who are obviously working and people who don’t have a lot to offer other than their time, but want to do everything they can to help.”
At the makeshift reception desk, where the church altar usually sits, is a folder full of the names of people who have offered accommodation for those who have had to evacuate.
Most of the offers come from Somerset, but others are from as far away as Newcastle and even Scotland.
Lucy said: “We had a lorry-load of waders come in the other day, we’ve had Sikhs from the Midlands come down to help and they just sent 20 tonnes worth of sand, and we’ve even had Mormons from America contact us offering assistance.”
While the worst of the weather is over, the centre is staying open between 6am and 10pm for the foreseeable future.
Should someone require temporary accommodation due to the flooding they can call Sedgemoor District Council’s emergency service on 0800-9176520.
For now, the lights at the rest centre will finally turn off at night.
It has remained open for so long that when the council and volunteer staff started packing up to leave on Thursday they had to ask church staff how they lock the building.