intu’s top north east bosses swapped the board room for begonias and presentations for pitchforks as they volunteered their time to help improve the gardens of the children’s charity Grace House in Sunderland.

Phil Steele, general manager of intu Eldon Square, and Clare Cannon, community manager at intu Eldon Square and intu Metrocentre, were among a team of nine from the two intu shopping centres who spent the day weeding, cutting the grass and preparing the soil of the raised beds within the vegetable garden at Grace House, ready for re-seeding.

Based in a purpose-built, state of the art facility in Southwick, Grace House provides short breaks and respite care for children and young people aged 5-18 with complex disabilities, health needs and life limiting conditions, alongside a range of social, therapeutic and support services for their families.

The extensive gardens at Grace House play a key role in the residential experience of families, providing an accessible, fun space for children and adults to enjoy. The long-term aim is to create an outdoor space that it as therapeutic as the indoor space – using a combination of music, light therapy and visual arts with plants of all shapes, sizes, colours and scents to stimulate the senses, and volunteers are therefore invaluable in helping the gardens reach their full potential.

Phil Steele, general manager of intu Eldon Square, said: “Staff at Grace House work tirelessly to help create a welcoming haven for children with complex disabilities as well as offering family members a chance to relax and recharge their batteries. It’s a real pleasure to be part of such an important community project and help them with the garden transformation.

“I can’t claim to be a budding Alan Titchmarsh, much to the distress of my wife, but I’m enjoying the challenge and we’re all keen to make as much progress as we can during our time here as honorary gardeners!”

Clare Cannon, community manager at intu Eldon Square and intu Metrocentre, commented: “As a company intu is extremely supportive of staff being involved in charity and community projects, so when Grace House invited us to take part in the redevelopment of the gardens, we were delighted to dig out our gardening gloves and put a team together.”

Jane Lertas-Robinson, Business Development Manager at Grace House said: “It is fantastic having a team from intu coming to Grace House to help with our garden. It’s brilliant when managers get involved in the staff volunteering projects – it really adds a buzz to the day for everyone and shows what a true commitment the company has to supporting local good causes.”