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Five community enterprises from Newcastle and Sunderland are taking to the neighbourhood again this summer to spruce up the community thanks to a boost totalling £1,250 from Stagecoach North East.

All five organisations entered the local bus operator’s Green Santa competition for community groups across the north east and submitted winning responses to the question ‘What could Stagecoach Green Santa give your community group to help the environment’?

Pottery Bank Community Centre is located at the heart of the local community in Walker, Newcastle, offering a wide range of free training opportunities for local women, with a team of active volunteers, a community café and a community allotment.

The allotment gives local people the chance to come in and learn about growing vegetables, fruit and flowers; as well as providing an opportunity for volunteers to gain valuable experience and a fun educational space for children to take part in activities during the holidays. The produce from the allotment is used in the community café, and surplus is donated to anyone using the centre. In the future the Centre hopes to expand this service so that it can offer reasonably priced vegetable boxes to local residents, and continue to give away surplus so that people have the opportunity to try fresh fruit and vegetables with zero air miles involved.

The winning £250 funds were used to purchase gardening equipment, including a heavy duty wheelbarrow, compost, watering cans, plant pots and small tools.

Angela Barker, Community Growing Worker at Pottery Bank Community Centre, said: “Pottery Bank Community Allotment is a well-loved space providing the opportunity for local people to learn about growing and enjoy the benefits of the outdoors, and I would like to thank Stagecoach on behalf of Pottery Bank Community Centre for providing us with much needed funding so that we can continue to offer this resource.”

West End Women and Girls Centre is a youth and community centre in the west end of Newcastle, providing group work where women and girls can meet, have fun, learn new skills and look at issues relevant to their lives, building confidence in a safe and supportive environment.

‘Edible Elswick’ is one of the Centre’s community-wide engagement projects (working with women, men and children) and this year continued its support of residents on local estates, helping them to adopt flower beds and encouraging them to plant and grow more to develop urban edible and floral oases. Other projects include ‘Tidy Up & Plant’ and ‘Elswick Garden Neighbours,’ where local families enjoy planting activities to transform gardens with mini makeovers and free healthy food.

To help with the gardening work, the Centre asked Green Santa for £250 towards a chipper so they can make use of the branches and other soft materials collected when tidying the local green spaces for composting and laying small paths. Previously some materials were burned, so receiving a chipper will help the team to work more effectively, waste less and be good to the environment.

Johurun Nessa, Development Worker at West End Women and Girls Centre, said “We are so delighted to have been chosen as a project to receive £250 to help us be greener! This is a great fund for Stagecoach to offer small groups, as the investment in essential equipment really helps us do more and be more self-sufficient.  Thank you from all at West End Women and Girls Centre.”

Walker Park volunteer rangers are a small but growing group of volunteers who work alongside Newcastle City Council Parks and Countryside team. They asked Green Santa for £250 towards a nocturnal wildlife garden to help wildlife and allow local people to enjoy and embrace that wildlife in their local community. With the money, the rangers were able to purchase seeds for a wildflower area with night scented flowers.

Elswick Allotment Association in the west end of Newcastle was also lucky enough to win £250 which will be used to help set up a juicing group and make the most of the surplus amount of fruit on site. As the association is always looking for new ideas to cut down on any wastefulness on site, they believe it will be a great addition to their yearly summer open.

In Sunderland, St Peter’s Action and Community Enterprise (S.P.A.C.E) purchased wildflower seeds and plants to give colour and attract wildlife in the community.

S.P.A.C.E involves a group of local people who meet every month to organise community events and address local issues. The group began its ‘Community Growth Project’ in the summer of 2017, with the aim of improving the neighbourhood by making neglected areas more attractive.

Tracey Enguita, Treasurer at S.P.A.C.E said: “Last year we mostly cleared grotty areas near the Wheatsheaf that have become a target for fly tipping. This summer we hope to plant wild flower seeds and plants to encourage people to stop dumping rubbish there and make the area nicer for the community. Wildflower meadows are more than just pretty flowers; they are a lifeline for many different species of insect and animals.’’

“We believe that a pleasant community appearance adds to home values, helps attract business investment and improves the neighbourhood reputation, and our research shows that beauty is one of the top three factors in creating community attachment, or loyalty, to a particular town or city. We are working with the local community garden project, A Space2Grow at St Peters Church, to source our seeds and plants locally which are more sustainable. They also welcome volunteers to the garden every Saturday afternoon where they can learn more about plants and bees.”

Tracey added: “We were all really delighted to win the Green Santa Competition and thank you to Stagecoach North East.”

Steve Walker, Managing Director, Stagecoach North East, said: “The competition prizes for all five community groups are well deserved and will benefit the environment and the local neighbourhood. I hope that everyone in the community will enjoy the boost to the local environment. Thank you to all the hard work and efforts that the community volunteers put in to make Newcastle and Sunderland a lovely place to live.”

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