A BUS service which helps transport elderly and disabled people in Rochford is celebrating after receiving £25,000 from the Echo.

Wyvern Community Transport, based at the Community Link Centre in St Lukes Place, secured the grant from Gannett, the Echo's parent company.

The charity provides a door-to-door bus service for residents of Rochford and the surrounding areas. It will use the money to buy a new bus, to add to its existing fleet of three vehicles.

Manager of the service, Tony Ashley, said: "I am absolutely delighted.

"We've been running for five years and is the first successful grant we've had. We have never been able to afford a new bus before so this is wonderful."

The new vehicle will be able to transport 14 people around the district for shopping trips, hospital and doctors visits, and days out.

It will eventually replace the oldest bus, which will remain in service but will only be used occasionally.

Mr Ashley added: "We provide a service for people who are unable to access public transport because of restricted mobility or because they live in an area which isn't served by public transport.

"The new bus will increase the availability, the reliability and the flexibility of our service, and improve the way people travel with us."

Elsie Wicks, 81, of Langdon Road, Rayleigh, who is disabled, uses the buses twice a week.

Her husband and carer Alfred, 82, said: "A new bus is fantastic news.

"I can't take my wife out by myself and the service is a great asset to us - it really means a lot.

"My wife loves the service. Without it she would never get out of the house at all."

Linda, 48, from Rayleigh, who asked for her surname and address not to be published, also uses the charity for shopping and doctors appointments because she is disabled.

She said: "You can't underestimate how important something like this is "It gives you so much freedom and independence.

"I'm sure the new bus will make a huge difference and will expand the service."

Wyvern Community Transport made more than 15,000 journeys last year across Rochford district using paid and voluntary drivers, and charge a membership fee for users.

A SPECIAL SCHOOL was delighted to be handed a £3,500 cash injection from the Echo.

Lancaster School, in Prittlewell Chase, Westcliff, received the money from the Gannett Foundation.

The school helps to educate more than 60 pupils, aged between 14 and 19, with learning difficulties. It will use the grant to buy equipment for its sensory room.

Alan Pratten, deputy headteacher, said: "The staff and the pupils need the facilities and so it was a great relief to receive the grant. The equipment is very expensive and this money will really help."

The cash will buy a range of sensory equipment including interactive wall panels and switches.

Pupils will be able to use their sense of touch, smell and taste with the new gear.

Mr Pratten said: "This will improve the way students interact with the world and the way the world interacts with them.

"It will also enhance the present room and the curriculum of the school."

Adults from day centres across the Southend area will also be able to use the facilities at the school.

Mr Pratten added: "This is something that will not just benefit the students but also the community as well."