Published: 00:01, 09 September 2017
Recovered stolen bicycles left to collect dust in a police lock-up are being used to help people trying to get their life back on track.
Many unemployed, ex-offenders and those who have suffered from substance abuse and other health issues have turned to the charity No Walls Gardens, to give them a renewed sense of purpose.
The main way it does this is through community gardening. Volunteers have just transformed a garden in the grounds of Northfleet’s historic St Botolph’s Church into an enchanted space.
Now such volunteering is more accessible thanks to the police.
Director Gary May explained: “Last year we went to France where we met an organisation which arranged mopeds for people so they could get to the place where they were volunteering.
“Having seen the French initiative we went down to Northfleet police station and tried to find out what they were doing with recovered stolen bicycles.
“It turned out they were just being thrown away a lot of the time, so we now get a regular supply of bikes from them and if people are volunteering with us we provide them with a bike.
“They can be a bit more healthy and independent rather than using public transport and if they go on to get a job they get to keep the bike. People like it and have responded well to it.”
Initially the charity was only given a couple of bicycles, but it was soon given more and recently received another 18.
“We are also thinking of things we can do for the wider community, like whether some of them can go to youth clubs or something like that,” said Mr May.
“Some of the bikes are not in the best condition so the volunteers can learn about bike maintenance.”
Mr May and the team are hoping that the hard work on The Enchanted Garden pays off at this year’s South and South East In Bloom Your Neighbourhood competition. Last year the garden was ranked as level four – thriving – and this time the aim is to go one better.
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