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Lloyds Bank staff get stuck in on volunteering day with mental health charity

THEY say that money grows on trees, but staff from a local branch of Lloyds Bank have learned that trees can also provide so much more.

Nine members of staff from Lloyds Bank in Blyth, South East Northumberland, have spent a day volunteering at The Woodfuel Centre in East Sleekburn, a small business venture operated by local mental health charity, Blyth Star Enterprises.

The staff volunteers from Lloyds Bank with staff and service users from The Woodfuel Centre.

Established in 1987, Blyth Star Enterprises supports over 350 people living with mental ill health and learning disabilities. As well as being a specialist provider of sustainably sourced kiln-dried kindling and logs for commercial and domestic wood-burning stoves, The Woodfuel Centre provides sheltered work experience for over 50 of Blyth Star Enterprises’ service users across its factory floor and dedicated woodwork department.

The volunteers from Lloyds got hands-on across the site during their visit, working alongside staff and service users on the production line, in the woodwork department and out on deliveries, rotating systematically so that everyone had the opportunity to experience the full range of activities available at the Centre.

Heather Barclay, branch manager at Lloyds Bank in Blyth, said:

“Every year, each Lloyds branch can select its own small charity to support through volunteering activities or fundraising. We selected Blyth Star Enterprises as a lot of Blyth Star’s service users live locally to the branch and are known to the staff and customers, so we thought it would be a good way to give something back.

“We set up a book stall and held a raffle in-branch to raise money for the charity but we knew that we wanted to give some of our time to the cause as well.

“It was fantastic to spend the day with Neil and the team at The Woodfuel Centre. Until we saw it for ourselves, we had no idea of the extent of the work the charity does in the local area, it is truly amazing and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.”

Pictured (left to right): Susanne Nicholson (Lloyds Bank), Neil Hedley (The Woodfuel Centre) and Heather Barclay (Lloyds Bank) with the new money tree.

To commemorate the visit, the volunteers helped to build a raised planter with seating around the edges in which they planted an apple tree sapling, purchased with money raised by Lloyds customers. Blyth Star Enterprises thanked the Bank staff by adding a custom-made, branded plaque to the planter, calling the sapling their new “money tree”.

“We were delighted to host the staff volunteers from Lloyds Bank,” said Neil Hedley, manager at The Woodfuel Centre.

“Providing day services which replicate real working environments is just one of the ways that Blyth Star helps its service users to live more independently and engage with their local communities, so the work that we do at The Woodfuel Centre is really important.

“Engaging with local businesses is a key priority for us so to have an organisation like Lloyds Bank on side is absolutely fantastic. The money raised so far is being put towards developing a new garden break out area for our service users to enjoy of which the money tree will be the centrepiece. We really can’t thank the Lloyds staff and customers enough for their generosity.”

For more information about Blyth Star Enterprises and The Woodfuel Centre, visit www.blythstar.org.uk.