Steve discovers love for the great outdoors
When chronic arthritis and hip problems forced Steve Kennedy to give up his job as a bus driver, he was determined to find a new outlet to keep his mind and body fit and healthy.
First on Steve’s hit list were the fence panels surrounding the communal garden area at his one bed Bromford flat in Telford, Shropshire, as they were in desperate need of a lick of paint.
“A couple of years ago, Steve asked me if he could paint the communal garden fence outside his property. I supplied paint and to my surprise he didn’t just paint the area by his flat, he painted the entire communal garden fence,” said neighbourhood coach Emma Saunders.
“Since then, every year Steve requests more paint to keep this little community area looking fresh and clean.”
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit last March and, like with so many others, the lockdown restrictions exacerbated the 42-year-old’s mental health issues. He set about trying to transform his communal garden into a place for all of his neighbours to enjoy, ferrying bags of compost back from garden centres in taxis once he had saved up enough money to buy additional stocks.
And spurred on by the recent good weather, Steve has now cut out flowerbeds, planted shrubs and strawberry plants, put out garden pots, kept up with the weeding, and even built his own pond which is now attracting wildlife such as butterflies and frogs.
During the height of the first national lockdown when landscapers had to scale back their work for a short time, Steve even offered to cut the grass instead.
“It took me about five hours and I was dripping in sweat but I was happy to do it, and it was one job off their list at a difficult time for everyone ultimately,” he explained.
Steve went on: “I’ve always struggled with my mental health and like a lot of people, spending so much time indoors was starting to drive me crazy. I’m thankful I’ve got a garden and a landlord that lets me just get on with it. Getting outside and doing bits when I feel up to it has really improved my mental and physical health and has kept me sane really – I now feel proud when I open my curtains every day.”
And Steve, who has lived in his home with partner Kira since October 2017, is now encouraging other customers to try their hand at some gardening.
“If it helps just a single person then I would definitely encourage it. Some people can be too afraid to ask or get started but my advice is to just give it a go.”
Emma added: “I’ve had customers who have walked into garden centres and then walked back out again because it can sometimes feel pretty daunting, but Steve is a great example of facing those fears and building a passion for something in stages. He’s a fantastic customer and a great neighbour and a real credit to his community.”
Steve and Emma are now working together to explore the possibility of securing him a new communal shed, to store his growing collection of garden tools.