Christmas Begins at Mill Lane

Johann from the Communications Team recently spent two days volunteering at the Mill Lane Garden Centre to help with selling their Christmas trees. Read all about his experience below.

Recently, The Communications Team were lucky enough to have the opportunity to volunteer at the Mill Lane Garden Centre, helping them with their yearly Christmas tree sales. The Garden Centre is a social enterprise run by Unity Works, aiming to provide supported employment and training for people with a learning disability. Over the course of three weeks our team have gone and lent a hand, doing a range of different jobs and getting into the Christmas spirit in time for the big day.

I first went to Mill Lane with one of my co-workers to help with unloading the Christmas trees that were due to arrive. Unfortunately, there was a slight delay with the delivery, so we assisted in helping decorate the outside fences a bit. Although we were a bit rusty with a hammer and nails, we were still able to hang up pictures of some of Unity Works’ trainees. They even stayed relatively straight, so we obviously did a passable job!

Eventually the trees did arrive, freshly wrapped and ready for sale. They just needed carrying from the lorry to the courtyard of the Garden Centre. With the rest of the volunteers and staff, we began our main job of the day. It ended up being quite the workout! Something my body enjoyed reminding me about the next day.

We had help from one or two of the trainees and they weren’t afraid of getting stuck in and helping us do some of the lifting. They also had their own roles that day, making homes out of wood so insects would have the chance to be able to hibernate over winter, and spend their time comfortable and warm.

It was a really great day; I was happy to be there volunteering and working for a good cause. I headed home with the thoughts that I had done a good job and that I may go back again next year if the opportunity came around again.

And then I went back the week after!

I was offered the chance to go back down and help sell some of the Christmas trees and I took the opportunity happily. Heading back over, with the Christmas jumper on this time, I was able to work alongside some of my colleagues in the Communications Team as well as more trainees and staff from Unity Works. Together, we all eagerly got stuck in.

While finding our customers their perfect tree was an important task, there is a lot more to the process of the sale then just the actual sale. There were some customers who wanted to see how the tree looked without the wrapping on, as a result the first step was often to cut the wrapping off and let the tree stand to model how it would look in their homes. If that was the tree they wanted, we would lift it onto a bench ready to chop the bottom of the tree off to help it fit into a stand, and to make sure it takes on more water to help it live longer. Finally, we would have to re-wrap the tree for transporting home, putting it back through a netting machine to make it easier for the customer to take.

It was quite the strenuous process but a fun one. The customers were all kind, helping us along with their jokes and laughter, you could tell that the Christmas spirit was already here! While my body once again reminded me that I’m not as fit as I once was, it was worth it to experience the amount of fun that I had. It was a wonderful time, seeing everyone getting into the Christmas spirit, and being a part of it made me feel a little more Christmassy in return.