From clearing litter to transforming a sensory garden, hundreds of volunteers headed out into the community in a college group’s giant effort to make “Time for Teesside”.

Around 250 members of staff from the colleges that make up the Education Training Collective (Etc.), took time away from their day jobs to embark on 21 projects for local good causes.

“The idea was to give something back to our communities in a real practical way,” said Etc. chief executive and group principal, Grant Glendinning.  “What better way to make a real impact than rolling up our sleeves and giving our time to offer a helping hand in whatever way we can?”

Sourcing projects across the Tees Valley, volunteers carried out litter picks at the Tees Barrage, Redcar beach, Ingleby Barwick and Billingham, and volunteer days were spent at Daisy Chain and Teesside Hospice charity shops, Thornaby Church Baby Bank, Norton Community Centre, Vision 25, Low Grange Community Centre, Dogs Trust Darlington and Maxi’s Mates.

Linking in with Middlesbrough FC Foundation, construction and maintenance challenges took place at The Finlay Cooper Centre in North Ormesby, North Ormesby Resource Centre, and the Herlingshaw Centre, Middlesbrough, with further projects at Billingham Environmental Link, St Benedict’s Primary School in Redcar, Friends of True Lovers Walk, Yarm, Piper Court Care Home, Stockton, and a fundraising dog walk.

Helping muck in with a transformation of the outdoor space at The Finlay Cooper Centre, Grant said: “The diversity of the voluntary activities taking place was fantastic and a real reflection of the incredible work that goes on by amazing organisations right here on our doorstep.”

Keen to make a difference, he said: “The benefits of the day were two-fold, this was a chance to help others and play an active part in our communities, but it was also an opportunity for staff to do something completely different and spend time with colleagues who they may not have worked with directly before.”

The Etc. incorporates Bede Sixth Form College, NETA Training, Redcar and Cleveland College, Stockton Riverside College, and The Skills Academy, and together the teams put in approximately 2000 voluntary hours between them.

At North Ormesby Resource Centre a team of Etc. volunteers helped to revamp a sensory garden.

Centre manager Jackie Reilly said: “We have a unit here for people with dementia. The Etc. team worked throughout the day to help us create a sensory garden and what a fantastic job they did. This will now enable our service-users to enjoy the outdoors in a safe and tranquil environment, using touch and smell to hopefully help bring precious memories to them and promote mental health and wellbeing.”

With plans to make Time for Teesside an annual event, Grant said: “This is the beginning of what will hopefully become a bit of a movement for Teesside.  We hope that next year other members of the business community will consider joining us.”

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