Garden trust appeals for funds
Selmes Garden Trust is struggling to meet its costsIAN ALLEN
A charitable trust in Blenheim that employs people with disabilities could be forced to make redundancies if it can't secure about $100,000 in public funding, one of the trustees has said.
John Lundon said the Selmes Garden Trust, which runs a garden centre on Battys Rd, was struggling to meet its operating costs, including an annual wage bill of more than $300,000.
The trust was set up in 2009 after IHC decided to sell the original Selmes Road Garden Centre. The trust is required to pay workers with disabilities the minimum wage, and has been operating with a shortfall of $50,000 to $70,000 a year, Mr Lundon said.
The Selmes Garden Nursery, which was relocated to Battys Rd, employs 10 people with disabilities on a part-time basis and six fulltime able-bodied staff members, he said.
Up to nine volunteers also work at the centre, the trustee added.
The garden centre may have to cut staff numbers if it can't secure financial backing, Mr Lundon said.
The trust received some government assistance to employ handicapped people through the Workbridge programme, he said.
"But because of the economic situation, there's not much in the pot," he said.
The trust had managed to deal with the shortfall since 2009 through bequests and gifts from individuals and organisations such as the Canterbury Trust, the Blenheim Trust, the Redwood Trust and the Lions Foundation.
"To date we've had wonderful support from the community," Mr Lundon said. "So once again we fall back on public generosity."
Mr Lundon rejected criticism that the nursery had become a profitable business, which shouldn't receive donations or government support.
"Our principle objective is the employment and training of persons with mental and physical disability," he said.
"We are not in business trying to make a profit. If we started making a profit it would be used to exact our principle objective. We believe the training we provide our disabled people is our point of difference with other retail garden centres in Blenheim."
The trust takes two boys from the Marlborough Boys' College special needs class each term for work experience, he said.
"We are also registered with Community Probation to take people on placement and receive no remuneration for this work.
"To see the joy and happiness of the people we have working here makes the whole thing worthwhile."
Anyone wishing to donate to the Selmes Garden Trust should contact Mr Lundon on 021655052.
- The Marlborough Express