GARDENING services for the elderly and infirm which came within a month of ending during lockdown have received welcome financial backing.

Knutsford GROW (Garden Regeneration Over Ward), offers gardening services using a team of volunteers, who themselves may have mental health issues or learning disabilities.

The small local charity focuses its activities on Shaw Heath and Longridge, which comprises one of the three most deprived areas in Cheshire East.

Knutsford Town Council’s finance committee agreed to grant the group £2,540 for new equipment and to enable it to rebrand itself.

Group trustee David Laycock told the committee: “2020 should have been our 21st birthday. Instead we were hit by a perfect storm with Covid-19.

“That meant our volunteers couldn’t garden, they were isolating for the first part of the epidemic and our beneficiaries were also self-isolating.

Knutsford Guardian:

Trustee David Laycock

“That meant our donations dried up, and our other sources of income, such as collecting cans in local retail businesses, also stopped as well.

“We found ourselves within one month of having to close our operations.”

Fortunately the group was able to get short-term assistance from the Chancellor’s emergency fund, he said, and a subsequent grant from the Cheshire Community Foundation, which meant that financially it was stable for the current financial year.

He added: “However that situation forced the committee to realise we couldn’t continue with our finances being based on such a hand to mouth manner.

“What we’re trying to do with this application is to resolve that and become much more self-sufficient.

“We aim to do that in two ways – rebranding ourselves will allow us to become more competitive in what is an increasingly competitive charitable marketplace.

“We also plan to create a subscriber club of local people. Hopefully that will mean we can attract more sponsors and more volunteers.”

Cllr Andrew Malloy said the group gave ‘amazing’ support to some of the more vulnerable members of the community, but also experience for its volunteers, many of whom might themselves be in vulnerable situations.

Cllr Peter Coan, a non-voting member of the committee, said he loved what the group did and had been a major supporter over the years.

However he stressed that council grants came from the tax payer, and supported giving £1,340 of the figure requested.

He supported funding an eco electric mower and battery, spare battery and chargers, 40 uniform polo shirts and 25 uniform wet weather jackets, but not new logo and website designs, promotional incentives and new stationery.

Cllr Mike Houghton said it was vitally important the organisation had a vibrant and modern image to support younger volunteers, and it was long overdue for a brand refresh.

The grant is conditional on full council approval in January.