Chris ‘Monty’ Shields has big plans for Turning Corners, the community football project in Thurrock offering inclusive football for adults of all ages and abilities. They welcome people who have experienced or are experiencing substance misuse, poor mental health or social exclusion.

Turning Corners is an aptly named project for those involved who are making positive changes to their lives. Everyone who attends the sessions have bought into the message that together, they can overcome the challenges that life throws at them.

Chris is a huge football fan, a lover of the beautiful game with an infectious personality; someone who wants to make a difference. From previous experience, Chris believed that he could use the power of football to bring together guys for a kick around and provide a forum for people to connect, get some exercise and feel part of something.

The day we gave Chris his One in a Million award, the weather was terrible. Despite this, lots of new faces arrived and were welcomed to the ‘Turning Corners’ family making it the biggest attendance yet. The growth has been very organic, with word of mouth and friends bringing friends who now have a bigger support network, largely thanks to Chris.

Lee Monk, Active Essex Assistant Relationship Manager said: “When you meet people like Chris, it makes your day. His boundless enthusiasm for encouraging others who have or are experiencing similar issues to him is truly inspiring. Richard Jacklin, Chris’s Community Connector at Inclusion Visions has supported Chris every step of the way and together, they are making real impact on people’s lives in Thurrock through Turning Corners.”

Chris said: “Turning Corners is a vision I have had for years. I observed my friend Stuart go from substance misuse, to turning his life around. He inspired and encouraged me to join a football group. I thankfully found recovery myself and started going to meetings where I met other great friends. My dream was and still is for someone to look at me and be inspired like I was and still am by my friend Stuart. Turning Corners means a huge amount to me and to be part of making a difference to people’s lives has always been my dream and passion.”

Chris is proudly four years in recovery and despite his ups and downs, remains driven and optimistic about the future and how Turning Corners can grow to support even more people. The project continues to grow, with thanks from support and funding from Active Thurrock. The group currently meet every Tuesday 6-7 at UPS College (Palmers Campus) and new participants are more than welcome to join.