Countess of Wessex presents royal award to South Shields garden project

Royalty came to South Tyneside, presenting a top award to a much loved community project. Sophie the Countess of Wessex handed the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service to the volunteers of the NECA Community Garden in South Shields.

NECA is a charity which improves the lives of individuals and communities throughout the region. For over 40 years they have supported and enabled thousands of people to battle substance and gambling misuse.

Since 2018 the garden has been developed by NECA, Volunteers and Friends of the Garden, to provide a great community asset.

The Brockley Avenue facility comprises 15 allotments and delivers information education to the community in a welcoming and safe environment, using gardening activities and outdoor learning.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex, presented the Queens Award for Voluntary Service to Dave Johnson of NECA.

Activities range from woodwork, sport and gardening to caring for the hens and ducks on the site, as well as pre-school group sessions and school holiday activities.

The focus is on health, wellbeing and nutrition using the produce grown in the garden. They also provide food parcels for those who need them in the local area.

Brian Smith, on behalf of the volunteers said: “We all take huge pleasure in volunteering at the garden, because we know it’s making a great difference to many people in our local community.

"It’s fantastic to have such prestigious recognition in the Queen’s Awards for Voluntary Service and it will spur us on; and hopefully encourage more people to take part in our activities.

Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear, Susan Winfield OBE, said: “The dedication and hard work of the NECA garden volunteers have made a huge difference to the local community in South Shields.

“The garden encourages people of all ages to learn new skills and develop their confidence and independence, through helping others, which in turn helps them improve their job prospects.”

Mayor of South Tyneside, Cllr Pat Hay said: “It was an honour to welcome Her Royal Highness the Countess of Wessex to South Tyneside.

“The volunteers at NECA do an incredible amount of work helping individuals to overcome their own personal challenges and supporting groups to thrive in a safe and exciting learning environment at their allotment site. They really are helping to transform people’s lives.

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