Banks group funding helps key man Gavin keep his place at the wood pile

January 29, 2016 | Community News

A four-figure grant from a regional employer has enabled a County Durham community interest company that raises money to help local people get into work to keep on one of its key members of staff.

The Wood Pile was set up to reduce the amount of wood going to landfill and incinerators by means of recycling or upcycling, wood and furniture that is collected from waste streams, donated to the project or bought at auctions, charity shops and markets.

Based on Rennys Lane in Dragonville, Belmont and founded in mid-2014, The Woodpile is predominantly run by a group of volunteers and a few salaried staff, with several members of the team having learning difficulties.

One member of the team, Gavin Tones, who has only 20 per cent vision, was facing losing his job with the organisation as the funding stream which supported his work at The Wood Pile since he joined in December 2014 was about to run out.

But now, thanks to a £5,408 grant from the Banks Group through the Banks Community Fund, Gavin’s role at The Woodpile, which involves marketing, updating the website, social media activity, basic administration and helping some of The Woodpile’s clients with job searches, has been secured for another year.

The Wood Pile team repair and renew old, damaged and discarded furniture to either make it look as good as new or give it a “Shabby Chic” look before selling the items in its shop, with the revenues generated through sales and the furniture workshops it runs being put back into the company to support the services it provides to clients.

Its work aims to support local people who have barriers to work, such as disadvantage or disability, move into and towards employment, they  do this by having its clients work alongside our volunteers to gain new  transferable skills in areas such as customer service, retail, furniture restoration, joinery and business administration.

More than 180 people accessed The Wood Pile’s services during its first full year, with 256 tonnes of wood being recycled and just under 700 pieces of furniture being reused, renewed and upcycled.

Karen Stubbings, who set up The Wood Pile after visiting a similar wood recycling scheme, says: “Many people will just discard their old furniture when they think it has served its purpose, but what we see is an opportunity to reuse and recycle, and we’ve been really successful in doing just that over the last 18 months.

“When I started The Wood Pile, we initially struggled to get customers through the door, but once Gavin came to us and took responsibility for our marketing activity, things have really taken off.

“Gavin is really proactive, and is always coming up with great ideas that have a big impact on what we do – I don’t think we’d be where we are without everything he’s done, and I honestly don’t know what I’d do without him now.

“We knew that the funding we’d obtained that enabled us to take Gavin on in the first place was going to run out, and we weren’t really sure what we were going to do, so to get this grant from The Banks Group has been absolutely invaluable.”

Lucy Hinds of The Banks Group, says: “The Wood Pile is a terrific community project that has a positive impact on our home area in so many ways, from reducing the amount of wood that goes unnecessarily to waste through to enabling local young people learn new skills and helping others back into the workplace.

“We’re very pleased to be supporting Gavin in continuing his work with the scheme and look forward to hearing of even more success at The Wood Pile in the future.”

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