Credit where it’s due as bank volunteers get digging in Sunderland

HSBC staff at work in the garden.
HSBC staff at work in the garden.
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Bank workers are out to show they can grow plants as well as interest by transforming a neglected garden for people with dementia.

Staff from HSBC branches across the North East dug in to rescue the overgrown patch of land at a Day Centre run by the Alzheimer’s Society.

The five-strong team took time away from their busy work schedules to tackle the project in Pennywell, Sunderland – creating an outside space that can now be enjoyed throughout the summer.

“As a charity we can’t justify the expense of having the garden professionally maintained,” explained Julie Swan, Volunteering Officer for the Alzheimer’s Society in Sunderland.

“Staff do their best to keep on top of it but recently it has become overgrown, so we were thrilled when HSBS staff offered to clean it up for free.

“And I have to say they did an excellent job. We now have an outside area that is inviting and pleasant to spend time in.

“Our centre in Sunderland gets used by up to 20 people a day who are living with dementia.

“Many of them will have been keen gardeners in the past and the idea is to encourage them to make regular use of the garden, not just as a place to relax but also to look after as a way of maintaining their skills.”

HSBC’s David Ferguson-Rhoades, the bank’s Middlesbrough branch manager, said: “We do a lot of community work that goes under the radar – all of which is part of our commitment to corporate social responsibility.

“The work of the Alzheimer’s Society is something that’s very close to the heart of our regional director, Andy Maisey, so this was something we were very keen to get involved in.”

Another of the volunteers, Val Atkinson, branch manager of Sunderland, Chester-le-Street, Consett and South Shields, said: “We have an ageing population so it’s especially important that businesses understand the needs of people over 60.

“Many of our staff have undergone training to help them give the best possible service to potentially vulnerable customers.”

Val added that a number of the bank’s employees had also become Dementia Friends, which involves attending a briefing or watching an explanatory video about dementia and making a commitment to do more to help those with the condition.