A community garden project which helps people blossom has won a royal award for a second time.
The Growing Zone Group in Kippax has been granted a Duke of York Community Initiative award for its “excellent work”.
The scheme on Gibson Lane is an allotment garden project for children and adults with special needs, which helps build confidence.
The Duke presented the certificate to Growing Zone’s placement worker Daniel Moran at a ceremony in Catterick earlier this month.
Growing Zone’s founder and chairwoman June Perkin, said: “We applied five or six years ago and got a Duke of York Award. When it was due to run out, I kept saying ’Can we have it again?’ They said ‘Yes’. But this time, when we went a two weeks ago, we took three of our boys that wouldn’t even speak, wouldn’t lift their head up or have a cup a tea with us when we first got them.
“But now they stood up and they spoke to the Duke and he presented the award. I just cried.”
The royal connection doesn’t end there as Kevin Sharp, who is a deputy lieutenant and clerk to the West Yorkshire Lieutenancy, is one of Growing Zone’s patrons. The Lord-lieutenant is the Queen’s representative in the region.
And another Growing zone patron, Elmet and Rothwell MP Alec Shelbrooke, helped bring it another famous fan during a trip to Downing Street.
June said: “Alec arranged for me to go down to Number Ten and that is when I met Samantha Cameron. They said she will come to visit you. I thought ‘yes, they say that to everybody’, but she did.”
The businesswoman and wife of former Prime Minister David Cameron, visited Growing Zone just before the 2015 election and described the project as being “inspirational”. She helped paint a fence and also stuck her hands in cement for posterity.
June’s own efforts in transforming a run down part of Sykes Fields’ Allotments into an award-winning site have also been recognised by royalty.
June got a British Empire Medal in 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours for her work with the project, which opened in 2008.
She said: “The plan was to have a garden where anyone regardless of age or disability could go and enjoy themselves in a safe and secure environment. Make friends, learn new things and above all gain confidence and enjoy life. A place where there is no discrimination and is open to all.”
A team of helpers, including some from Zurich Cares, helped clear about 12 skips’ worth of junk from the site. The zone now boasts a mini Africa and a Jurassic Park for youngsters, dipping ponds for bug hunts and a summer house where craft activities are done.
The National Lottery has given the zone a £98,000 grant over three years for running costs, to employ two staff and money to help pay for placements.
June said: “The inspiration is our youngsters. All these kids have needs and they just blossom with us. They are friends now, they all go out and they go on holiday together. They might not get a certificate at the end of it or they might not even get a job out of it but they have a life.
“Not only will plants grow in The Growing Zone but also confidence, intellect and friendships.
“We grow people. In fact, to the extent two weeks ago that a young man and lady who work on the garden, who have been with us since they left school, got engaged. There wasn’t a dry eye in the garden.”
The Growing Zone was established in 2008 at Gibson Lane, Kippax.
The allotment garden project has several aims revolving around bringing together youngsters and older people with disabilities and learning difficulties.
It strives to provide an environment which is safe, where they can learn from each other, build up their confidence and mix with other people from the community.
The Growing Zone aims to teach its members about the land, like how to grow vegetables, flowers and fruit. But a vital point is that they are out in the fresh air having fun.
There is wheelchair access to most parts of the garden and flat walking surfaces to help ease of access to various sections.
A disability mobility scooter, wheel chair, walking frames and other mobility aids are also available.
There is a comfort zone where people can relax, sleep or change and wash.
The grounds also feature a summer house or craft room where activities are done.
Tools and garden equipment are provided and the garden is supervised at all times.
The garden is open from March to December. In season it is open from Monday to Thursday from 10.30am to 3.30pm. It is open on Fridays by appointment. For more information, and if you would like to volunteer call 07801 903553. SOURCE: www.growingzone.co.uk.