After 10 years at Workbridge, our talented Service Manager, Chloe, is departing us for her next chapter. Thank you Chloe for 10 years of dedication and commitment to Workbridge. You will be missed and we wish you all the best in your next steps!
Here, Chloe shares her favourite memories from the last 10 years.
“I joined Workbridge in May 2010. I was offered a 6 month contract as a Vocational Skills Instructor, and it went from there really!
When I first started there was a big party for all our service users to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Workbridge. I was taken with the community and family spirit and it was a really nice way to start my journey with Workbridge and St Andrew’s Healthcare. The year prior to me joining, Workbridge completed a merger with St Andrew’s Healthcare. It was interesting to witness the changes as Workbridge transitioned to being part of a larger charity."
The garden centre at Workbridge will always be one of my favourite places. I am a trained horticulturalist and there are many memories that come to mind from the garden centre.
Northampton in Bloom
Being involved in Northampton in Bloom, both supporting the council’s town centre projects and also having the judges come and visit, after the council sneakily entered us into the Northampton in Bloom competition. We’ve had great support from local residents and it’s lovely being acknowledged locally as a quality plant nursery.
As part of Northampton in Bloom, I was able to take service users to the Guildhall for the Awards Ceremony. The service users got dressed up and it was so lovely to take them to something quite glamourous in recognition of their efforts.
Northampton in Bloom gave us a lot of confidence that we could take on bigger projects and showcase the skills people with mental illnesses, autism, brain injuries and learning disabilities have. Therefore, in 2016 we submitted a design to the Gardeners’ World small spaces competition, leading to us growing the plants and then building the garden at NEC in Birmingham. To get to that stage, I ran a competition for patients and service users to design a small garden with a literary theme. There were some amazing ideas but the idea that caught my eye was a Romeo and Juliet garden by a patient with a brain injury. Lots of thought went into it. This patient had never been so engaged and they went out and bought a book on garden design and got really into it as a project. It really ignited an interest in them. We got them to Gardeners’ World Live in Birmingham the following year to take a look at the show gardens, and it was incredible to see the pride on their face as they realised they had participated in the show garden enjoyed by so many people the previous year.
In 2017 we were lucky enough to be invited back to Gardeners’ World Live to help a multi-award winning garden designer to build his show garden. It was fantastic to have our service users gain experience in brick working, painting, planting, putting up posts etc. to an incredibly high standard.
Moving from porta cabins to the Braye Centre
I have been involved in major improvements to the facilities at Workbridge, namely moving from porta cabins into the Braye Centre. At the time, the coffee shop was also used as the canteen for service users. As it got more popular with customers, we ran out of space and we had to move over to the Braye Centre, allowing the coffee shop to expand and service users to have more space.
The charity shop had been in one half of a porta cabin, with our woodwork department in the other half. This made for some pretty noisy shopping trips to the charity shop at times, when woodwork machinery was being used during sessions! Enabling the charity shop to have their own retail space was great, and finally gave the volunteers the lovely space they deserved.
I’ve seen the Employment Support service grow in the last decade. When I first came to Workbridge, it was a part time role undertaken by a Vocational Pathway Lead. When Becky Phillips, Service Manager, joined the team in 2015, she set up Employment Support and was able to implement charity and external work placements and link in to local businesses to get paid jobs for service users. It’s opened up a lot of opportunities for patients and service users. They now play a big part in helping people achieve their goals and work with businesses to remove the stigma around mental health and mental illnesses, by realising how fantastic our guys are.
Made in Northamptonshire
We got involved in Made in Northamptonshire, a local group supporting and promoting Northamptonshire based food and drink business. We were honoured to be Made In Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards winners for independent coffee shop of the year and royal showstopper (for our cake) in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Going forward, the coffee shop team are keen to continue entering the annual awards to challenge themselves and showcase their talents.
Workbridge plays a special role in helping individuals overcome personal and social barriers
If I were to describe Workbridge to someone, I would say it is a place where everyone’s efforts are celebrated and everyone can achieve something. Achievement, however small or great, should be celebrated.
I love the fact that Workbridge helps people surprise themselves about just how capable they are. For example, Workbridge offer opportunities to gain AQA units (training certificates), which provide service users with the recognition that they possess useful skills and those skills are acknowledged to a set standard. You cannot underestimate how much difference it can make to someone’s self-belief and self-esteem to have their skills and hard work acknowledged.
With Workbridge, you won’t find a more empathetic, supportive and fun team to work with. We have challenges to support each other through, but there is great team spirit. I’m excited about the direction we go in and very excited about the future for Workbridge. It’s been incredible to see the team spirit and camaraderie of this place, particularly recently with the efforts to support our service users through the pandemic.