Roots Celebrate With Luton Mayor

Yesterday, 12th October 2021 our Luton service Penrose Roots to Recovery (Roots) hosted the Mayor of Luton, Councillor Mahmood Hussain, to a special celebration at the community garden. Roots was awarded £413,004 (over 3 years) from the National Lottery Community Fund to engage a minimum of 830 people in the local community experiencing mental and physical ill-health.

This will be achieved through its program of outdoor based workshops, training, and social groups and will enable the project to create exciting opportunities in Luton. One such opportunity is the increase of growing spaces which will enable Roots to produce even more fresh vegetables and fruits to support local people, families, food banks and community kitchens.

Also present at yesterday’s event were local councillors Cllr Amjid Ali and Cllr David Franks, Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Social Interest Group Stuart Jenkin, CEO of Luton council Robin Porter, CEO of the Social Interest Group Gill Arukpe, Directors and staff of the Social Interest Group, Roots’ members and volunteers, Keech Hospice, The Counselling Foundation the Probation Services, the National Health Service, social prescribers and other VIPs, relatives and supporters.

Samantha Smith who has been the Roots Service Manager since its inception said: “We have all put a lot of effort into today so that the Mayor, Council members, partners, and other visitors can see what the project is about. We will use the Lottery award to continue to provide much needed support to our members and wider community.”

Gill Arukpe, CEO of the Social Interest Group (of which Penrose Roots is a member) said: “This funding couldn’t have come at a better time. Roots has long proven itself to be a vital service but even more so during the pandemic when Roots’ volunteers grew and distributed food to people, many of whom couldn’t get to shops or order online due to their vulnerabilities. My thanks go out wholeheartedly to the National Lottery and its supporters, for helping us to ensure Roots will continue in Luton for years to come.”

Stuart Jenkin, Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees said that getting the award from the Lottery was a phenomenal result for a project that means so much to the people of Luton. He thinks that the dedication shown by the staff and the effort they put unto supporting the community should be replicated elsewhere.  

Roots to Recovery believes in the power of gardening to transform people’s physical and mental health, offering a range of opportunities to learn new skills, help reduce social isolation, and promote positive mental and physical wellbeing.

For William, an ex-volunteer now employee,  Roots is a true lifeline. It gives hope, compassion, a reason to be, and true peace of mind. He said: “We grow two things at Roots, we grow plants, and we grow people. Seeing how people develop and grow from when they first arrive, shy, quiet, and withdrawn to becoming more outgoing and engaged is amazing.” This was echoed by Louie, Roots’ very first member who said that Roots means everything to him as it has brought him out of his shell and helped him to make lifelong friends. William concluded: “Everyone who comes through the gate is welcomed here, regardless of race, class, or gender. This lottery money will give us stability for the next three years to continue to help the people who need us.” 

Other members, and volunteers also shared what Roots means to them and the community with many describing it as vital to their survival. One member, Charlie, stated that without Roots, she doesn’t think that she would still be here. She went through a tough time during the pandemic and was contacted regularly by staff, who checked in with her to ensure that she knew they were there for her. She is thankful to the Lottery for ensuring that, “Roots will continue to be around for a long time to come, so that it can be there for others like it was there for me.”

Yesterday’s celebration included a lunch made from vegetables grown in the garden, sales of honey (via the apiary at the garden) vegetables and flowers grown at the garden, a raffle, speeches, and a walk through the gardens. The day also served as an opportunity for potential volunteers to see first-hand the work involved in running the project.

A feeling of warmth and camaraderie permeated throughout the afternoon and the day concluded with a photocall for the members, proudly sporting their Roots t-shirts.