Volunteer Story – Geri's story

Geri is a volunteer at our SIG Penrose Roots to Recovery garden project. Sally spoke with us about how her volunteering journey started and has developed.

“I have been a volunteer pretty much since Roots started. I used to live opposite the garden and would walk by everyday with my dog, so I saw the garden developing. I stuck my nose over the fence one day and said hi and they explained what they were doing and who was being helped in the garden. It struck a chord with me as my younger brother has learning difficulties and autism. He was about 40 at the time and a lot of the day centres were closing down so he was at home very isolated and feeling demotivated.

I told Roots I would come with my brother (and the dog as well) and help. They were very welcoming, and I’ve been here ever since.

My brother probably won’t be able to vocalise what the project has meant to him but as one of his advocates I can truly say it’s given him huge confidence, helped him to build on his social skills, helped him make lots of friends and to catch up with friends he knew from years ago in various projects. He’s become more vocal, and his DIY skills have improved as its free and easy. He can’t read tape measures etc. but here, he can do things his way. He went to college for just one day because he struggled so much with the computers. Now he’s in his garden where he lives, as he commissioned the guys here, Will and Pete who build sheds, to build him a huge shed. And that’s where he’s been for the last two years!

 Roots hasn’t just helped my brother, but it has helped me too. I am a little bit of a recluse so it gave me a social outlet and I have made friends here who I know will be friends for life. I wasn’t really into gardening, but it has helped me to learn a lot about gardening and now I grow my own vegetables at home and given me that drive and incentive to learn more.

I have also enjoyed the process of giving back. Just being here helping out and seeing everybody, sometimes its little things like giving someone a lift home. Being able to help has been wonderful. It’s helped my charitable side to develop more.

The funding from the Lottery is going to give the garden an incredible advantage. With this money, the sky’s the limit! I am interested to see what they do with it. Just seeing the garden develop the last 4 to 5 years from 2 or three little beds to what they have achieved through the sheer graft of everybody is inspiring. With more funds its going to be amazing and I am excited and happy for them.

Penrose Roots means a lot to the local community who know about it. But also, the wider community who didn’t know about it, during lock down with all the food bank donations and door drops and all the work the volunteers were doing it has been lifesaving for some and have raised awareness of the project.  The members just being able to come here during that time, was truly a good thing. Some members have gone on and gotten jobs, so Luton definitely needs this. It’s a good example to other communities of what can be achieved through hard work, dedication and cooperation.