Award for Green Backyard ‘star’
A MAN who hit a low when he was ordered to carry out community service has now been given a top award after turning his life around.
Former self-employed builder John Garton (45) was forced to carry out 120 hours of community payback last year after admitting committing what he described a “minor misdemeanour”.
Mr Garton, who is homeless, carried out his time at the Green Backyard – a community project in Oundle Road, Woodston, Peterborough, which promotes healthy living and sustainable lifestyles by growing a variety of plants, fruit and vegetables.
But he enjoyed his time so much helping to construct sheds and grow vegetables at the scheme, when he finished his community service Mr Garton continued to volunteer at the Green Backyard.
He even gave lessons to others on how to pluck pheasants and skin rabbits.
And last month after a year working at the centre, he was given an Adult Learners’ Week Award for the effort he has put in helping others at the project.
He said: “This is my sort of lifestyle. I have learnt so much while I have been here.
“When my business went under, I thought I should leave the rat race and this has been the perfect opportunity.
“Then Janine Starling at Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT) nominated me for the award.
“I never expected anything like this. I don’t think I have done that much to be considered for an award, so to win it was a huge surprise.”
Along with a certificate, Mr Garton was also given a £200 cash prize for his success – which he has donated to the project so other volunteers can benefit.
He said: “I am unemployed, I am homeless and I don’t claim benefits but I can come here and work every day, where I hope I can learn even more and help others learn too.
“I have been helping build a classroom and I hope the money can be used to fit that out.
“Volunteering here has been a completely different experience for me. When I was a builder I was working with brand new materials, whereas here I work with scrap and reclaimed metal.
“It is a very different technical skill and it has been difficult to learn how to do it – but very enjoyable. I want to thank the people at PECT and Renny and Sophie Antonelli, who run the Green Backyard, for giving me this chance.”
Janine Starling, sustainable communities coordinator for PECT, who nominated Mr Garton for the award said she had been astounded by the progress he had made in the last 12 months.
She said: “At the beginning John had no experience of teaching and was quite shy speaking to groups of people.
“But since then he has shown tremendous development, carried out a number of courses and been involved in a number of training sessions. He has been a bit of a star to be honest. The way he has turned his life around has been amazing.”
For more information about The Green Backyard project, visit www.thegreenbackyard.com
changed man: John Garton with his Adult Learners’ Week Award.