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Volunteer gardeners are shortlisted for a community award

​Volunteers who maintain a memory and sensory garden near Lowestoft in support of people with dementia and their families have been shortlisted for a community award.

The five volunteers, who come from Lowestoft and Beccles, have been named as finalists in the “Community Group or Champion of the Year Category” of the Stars of Lowestoft & Waveney Awards.

Pauline Elliott, her husband John Elliott, Margaret Goffin, Jennifer Manson and Jenny Pye meet weekly at Carlton Court at Carlton Colville, which is run by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), to maintain The Lifetime Garden’s distinct and varied areas, which include a meadow, woodland, orchard, Mediterranean and sea gardens.

Two of them – Pauline and Jenny – have been volunteering there since the garden was created by former Trust staff Julie Kerton and Louisa Harris, together with patients, carers and volunteers, more than a decade ago.

Pauline said she did not know who had nominated her and her fellow gardeners, and the organiser of the awards has told her that the nominator has asked for anonymity.

“It’s lovely to have been nominated and shows that people in our community really do care about people with mental ill health and their carers,” she said.

“We all find the gardening very rewarding. It gives us a lovely opportunity to work in a hospital environment and know that we are contributing just a little bit to the wellbeing of the patients there.

“The service users seem to really appreciate the garden while relatives like to take their loved ones out of the ward environment and into the outside space. The staff also encourage those they care for to enjoy the garden. It’s lovely to know you are helping to enable them to do that.”

Lisa Breame, Practice Education Facilitator with NSFT, said: “I’m really pleased to learn that our volunteer gardeners are finalists for this award.

“I’ve known two of them for many years and to meet the rest has been a real pleasure - they are inspiring people!

“One day this summer I was walking in the garden with a gentleman who was very distressed but he quickly calmed as he could feel the sun, smell the flowers, pick the fruit on the trees and talk about his time as a farmer.

“It was a lovely moment that reminded me of what the garden achieves and this is all thanks to Pauline, John, Jennifer, Margaret and Jenny.”

Three of the five volunteers – Pauline, John and Jennifer – will attend the awards ceremony on Thursday, 11 October at the Hotel Victoria in Lowestoft. They are competing against two other finalists in their category.

Ros Parker from Parker Communications, organiser of the Stars of Lowestoft & Waveney Awards, said: “The awards are a wonderful way to celebrate and recognise the people of the community who do so much good, without expecting to be recognised in any way.

“There are so many people who give their time and talents for the betterment of our community and these awards are a chance for local people to say we noticed and care about your involvement and commitment.”

The awards ceremony, which is expected to be attended by a total of 220 people, will be compered by BBC Radio Suffolk presenter Mark Murphy.

Now in their fourth year, the Stars of Lowestoft & Waveney Awards are being sponsored by a range of local businesses.

Caption: Photographed in The Lifetime Garden at Carlton Court are (from left to right) Jennifer Manson, Pauline Elliott, Jenny Pye and John Elliott. Margaret Goffin is missing from the photograph.

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