Loz Spencer works as part of the customer service team at Bromford where, as well as dealing with customers getting in touch about repairs and rent payments, they often receive calls from customers who simply need someone to talk to. They hear heart-breaking stories from people living with mental ill health but, being on the end of a phone line, they never get the chance to put a face to a voice.

Loz, Nettie and Jackie

So, in the run up to this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, Loz, Nettie Manning and Jackie Ricketts decided to do something to get the team out of the office, and allow them to meet up with some of the customers they often speak to on the phones. But we’re not just talking a cup of coffee and a chat here. Oh no, Loz and the team had something far more energetic in mind.

Having spoken to a customer who had told them how gardening really helped his mental health, a germ of an idea was born. They began planning their very own Garden SOS projects and chose two Bromford MyPlace schemes to carry out the makeovers. Here Loz takes up the story.

“MyPlace offers people with mental ill health somewhere safe and secure to live for as long as they need to. We get quite a few calls from customers living in our MyPlace schemes and all of the team have gotten to know a lot about them and their lives, so it seemed the obvious choice for us to go to Mallow Court and Wood Hayes Place (both in Wolverhampton). But first we had to raise some money.

“Colleagues and local businesses were very generous with their donations but we were still struggling to afford everything we needed. Garden makeovers at two schemes don’t come cheap. It was then that we decided to approach YouCan to see if we’d be able to apply for a grant. We completed the forms, explaining how the project would include and benefit customers and their local communities… and crossed our fingers.

“Thankfully we were awarded grants of £200 for each scheme – meaning that we had enough budget to do everything we’d planned…now we just had to do it!”

So, over two days, with the help of customers and colleagues, Loz and the team transformed the outside spaces at Mallow Court and Wood Hayes Place.  As you can see from the photos below, everybody got stuck in and worked their socks off to create a couple of wonderful garden areas that the customers will be able to maintain and enjoy for years to come.

Loz said: “We’re over the moon with how the gardens have turned out. Whether it was turning up on the day and getting stuck in, or donating to the cause we are really grateful to everybody for their help in making it happen. Best of all, it was fabulous meeting up with some of the customers that we often speak to on the phones and putting a face to a voice. They were so happy to be involved and are now looking forward to spending more time together in their gardens.”

Nettie, another of the organisers of the garden makeovers, said: “ We had a number of high-end raffle prizes, including a signed Wolves football (mostly organised by Jackie ) that helped us to raise much needed additional funds for the garden makeover. The aim was to make the garden areas lovely places for our customers to relax in… and I think we’ve definitely achieved that.”

Jackie added: “I would just like to take this opportunity to say wow! What a fantastic response from colleagues and customers and a big ‘thank you’ to all.

“This project was so rewarding for all concerned and it was emotional at times to see customers so engaged and enjoying the involvement. I felt really privileged to be involved in such a worthy cause and all the fundraising efforts were well worth it.”

Two of the customers who will benefit from the makeovers are Patrick and Josie.

Patrick was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar at the age of 19, Patrick (now 54) has lived at Mallow Court in Wolverhampton for over seven years and you can read his story here.

Before moving into Wood Hayes Place Josie’s mental ill health, coupled with loneliness, made it really hard for to cope with life. Since moving in, she no longer feels isolated – read the full story here.

Here are just a few of the photos taken as colleagues and customers came together to transform the gardens over the two days…