A wealth of response to times of need

While Grimsby awaits the further easing of lockdown and the reopening of more of its businesses, there is an ongoing effort to support residents with their health and wellbeing.
Owned by NHS mental health services provider NAViGO, Grimsby Garden Centre re-opened its doors to the public recently, receiving a warm welcome from the local community.

The team at the centre have remained busy during lockdown, quickly and successfully adapting to managing delivery and collection services, while some of the staff were redeployed to other areas of the organisation – supporting frontline services – as well as partner agencies including a local care home.

“We have the most amazing team at the garden centre and right across NAViGO and there was very much a feeling of ‘we’re all in this together,” says general manager Jo Keen.

“We quickly identified people who are on the government’s shielding list and added to that people we know from our records who may be vulnerable during this time. Our garden centre team, along with other NAViGO staff, have supported them during the crisis delivering food parcels, collecting prescriptions or simply just ringing for a chat.”

NAViGO, a non-profit organisation, aims to get people from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with mental health difficulties back into work by offering them working life skills, while providing support and education.

“NAViGO has a really positive track record in terms of supporting employees – recently securing our highest ranking in the prestigious Sunday Times Best Companies list, named 25th nationally in the top 100 not-for-profit organisations while also scooping the Wellbeing Award for commitment to employee health and welfare,” explains Jo.

“NAViGO staff can access a confidential careline and have a dedicated occupational health specialist. We’ve also recently introduced wobble rooms for staff to take a break, enjoy a snack, have a chat, or just take five minutes to themselves.”

Aware of the impact of Covid-19, NAViGO also introduced a 24/7 mental health support service available to staff and those of all ages across North East Lincolnshire.

“As a team, we’ve ensured that we keep in touch with each other, have regular Zoom catch-ups and we’ve even dropped off surprise cakes (at a safe distance of course).”

Since taking over the garden centre in 2015, NAViGO has provided more than 80 skills, training and employment opportunities to local people.

“As you would expect from a garden centre, we often ‘grow our own’ in terms of finding new recruits,” says Jo.

“Where we are able to support people who have experienced a mental health difficulty and get them access to training, education and vocational opportunities, the next logical step is to find them paid employment, and where better to do this than within our organisation.

“We have a number of staff employed at the garden centre and across our organisation who we have supported in their recovery and rehabilitation. We want to continue to grow and we want people to grow with us. That means continuing to develop, continuing to innovate and continuing to reinvest increased profits into local mental health services.

“It also means providing an enjoyable customer experience, promoting the mental and physical benefits of horticulture, supporting people and investing in the development of individuals.

“As an independent local social enterprise, we want to continue playing a key role in the community we are so proud to be a part of. We want to say a huge thank you to the local community for supporting us throughout this difficult time – both our loyal regulars and new customers. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen such a huge amount of appreciation for our beloved NHS and we’ve never been more proud to be part of NAViGO.

“People know that when they shop with us, our profits are reinvested back into local services, as well as providing opportunities to people. We’re really grateful to everyone who has continued to support us through this tricky time. You really do make a difference.”

Jo says that while opening the centre’s doors is good news both for gardeners and the horticultural industry, there are also benefits as regards the mental and physical wellbeing of those staying at home.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming people and seeing some familiar faces as well as meeting the people who have just discovered us. Our staff collectively have more than 100 years of horticultural knowledge, skills and experience and we love to share it.”

Grimsby Garden Centre stocks everything that you would expect to find in your usual centre, together with a range of unique gifts and more, however there are also exciting plans for an extension to increase the shopping area.

“We pride ourselves on catering for everyone’s purse, making gardening affordable and accessible for all is one of our key objectives,” says Jo. “We want to create an attractive and accessible centre enjoyed by more local people while boosting our sales and securing our sustainability so we can continue to invest in employment and training opportunities and support mental health services across North East Lincolnshire.”

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North East Lincolnshire volunteer group Blue Lights Brigade has been supporting the local authority during the Covid-19 crisis, helping to distribute more than 1,300 food packages to the most vulnerable households in the area, as well as delivering shopping and medicine for many more.

Set up in 2017 by two retired police officers, Steve Jones and Steve Lynn, Blue Lights Brigade is a 24-hour volunteer organisation operating throughout the Grimsby, Cleethorpes and Immingham areas.

“We realised that when people retire from the Emergency Services, having been so institutionalised, their mental health often dramatically reduces when the uniform comes off,” explains Steve Jones.

“We recognised that ex-Forces and local community members would also benefit from the service we offer. We have many retired ex-‘blue lights’ staff and ex-Services, although the majority of our volunteers are members of the community as they know their own communities and know the vulnerabilities therein.”

Blue Lights Brigade also assists the Emergency Services in times of need during a crisis such as major storms or floods.

“With the help of Voluntary Action North East Lincolnshire, we set up the Safe and Well checks in conjunction with Humberside Fire & Rescue (smoke alarm inspections, along with social isolation, hoarding and loneliness checks), as well as other volunteering opportunities.

Volunteer manager Lucy Talbot explains: “We can be called upon to assist with community events, giving advice on flood preparation and fire prevention, providing trained first aid support, managing local community emergency shelters and managing spontaneous volunteers. Our volunteers undergo a nine-hour basic training package. We cover first aid awareness, disaster preparedness, disaster psychology and basic search and rescue.

“We try and help develop a renewed sense of purpose and direction through volunteering and also to improve employability skills and knowledge. We also offer enhanced training for those who want to gain further knowledge such as the three-day First Aid at Work course and 28 of our Community Emergency Response Team members are flood wardens training with the Environment Agency, the first ones in North East Lincolnshire for many years.”

During the coronavirus crisis, Blue Lights Brigade also assisted the council with the registration of community volunteers.

“We currently have just short of 600 members of the community signed up, many with enhanced DBS checks,” says Lucy. “They have been shopping and fetching medication for the vulnerable, delivering awareness letters to their communities and being a friendly voice on the end of a phone. We have also been assisting North East Lincolnshire Council with their shielding package deliveries and assisting Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital with collection and delivery of medication for patients.”

The organisers say they have had a “phenomenal response” from local businesses and are seeking sponsorship to help fund uniforms and training.

“We have been able to keep three vans on the road (lease, insurance and fuel) which has kept us delivering to the wider community. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support during this very difficult and confusing time. The reaction to Blue Lights Brigade’s response to the crisis has been overwhelmingly positive and we hope to continue our great work for many years to come.”

North East Lincolnshire Council registered volunteers are being offered the chance to become a fully-fledged member of the Blue Lights Brigade team as a fully trained Community Emergency Response Team member after the Covid-19 crisis comes to an end.

“We think every council ward/parish should have a team of 12 members willing to step up in times of need, not only for a pandemic, but also if a flood or major storm should hit,” adds Lucy. “The only commitment we ask is that you attend the nine hours’ training and then do what you can, when you can for us.”

For more information email
lucy@bluelightsbrigade.co.uk or visit www.bluelightsbrigade.co.uk

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