A packed audience in a Bognor Regis church signalled the start of the town’s links with a national Christian charity.
More than 200 people packed the Open Gate Church for the area launch of Redeeming Our Communities.
The uplifting meeting will lead to a conversations session at the Victoria Drive church at 7.30pm on June 9 when work to put ROC into action around the town begins.
John France, pastor of King’s Gate Church in Bognor, said: “This will be about getting people involved, talking about what they are doing, what they want to do and what they have in their hearts for this community.”
ROC founder Debra Green said in a statement: “The team working to make ROC in Bognor a reality have inspired us by their commitment and passion.”
Bognor is the first location across Sussex to benefit from becoming involved in ROC – started in Manchester in 2004 – and its promise of partnerships between churches, faith groups and other agences to reduce social problems. Other towns in Sussex are eagerly following.
Chief Inspector Jane Derrick, the Arun district commander of Sussex Police, said she was humbled by the commitment, motivation and enthusiasm behind those wanting to start ROC.
“You have taken my breath away. You are the community. You are the voice of Bognor,” she said. “There is so much going on and it’s going to get bigger. “It’s about a snowball which is rolling downhill. It’s not about budget cuts. Money gives you nothing. It’s about your heart and your mind.
“Change is not going to happen overnight. It’s a long-term commitment with lots of conversations and lots of smiles because that will make Bognor a happier place.”
Her comments at last Thursday’s launch came during an evening of worship, music and examples of the community work under way in Bognor.
The evening was inspired by Sergeant Christine Holyoake, of Bognor police station. She said: “ROC comes in when the police’s remit stops and is not enough. It’s going to make lasting changes but it can only do that if we all work together. “ROC is about simple things, about expanding what is already there. It’s not about big things costing a lot of money.”
The projects featured during the evening included the Arun Angels night-time volunteers.
One of them, Derek Baker, said: “We care about Bognor and we care about its people. We want it to be a safer place.”
Others who spoke explained the work of the Youth Of Bognor summer camps of the past five years which give 60-70 young people aged eight to 16 the chance of a holiday each summer and the Clock Walk Project with Eastern Europeans.
There was also the Open Gate football matches, language lessons of the English Migrant Workers Project and the Big Love project.