Keith Wilkinson – a legacy to be proud of

Words at Keith’s tree planting celebration event at our garden

Running a small charity, we are often asked by grant funders to explain our ‘outcomes’ . What they are asking in a roundabout way is what difference have you made with our money.

There isn’t a parellel universe where I can see what would happen if our community garden didn’t exist. But I can tell stories. One of them is of about Keith Wilkinson who we are all here today to celebrate his life.

Keith came to the garden one day and quietly got on with knocking our veg gardens into shape. He had an eye for a straight line, could use a hoe without chopping down the onions as well as the weeds.

When he first started volunteering he used sit and eat lunch on his own. But slowly he started opening up about his former life and forging relationships with people. We realised we had someone who knew what they were doing and tapped into his skills to get him to do everything from sanding our cabin floor to fixing our oven brickwork.

When we got some funding to transform the space by our cabin, Keith was just the man to take charge of it.

He led an army of volunteers as they tackled the weed mountain and moved mound after mound of chalk and soil by hand, slowly flattening the area, terracing it, building flower beds with precision and love and turning it into this amazing space. We now wonder how we ever managed without it.

It had its debut at our open day where we give people who volunteer the chance to show off what they do to family, friends and visitors. Keith of course, would never come to events like that, preferring to quietly get on with work in the background.

This space also means we can accommodate school trips during workdays and we even hosted a wedding here. When people visited him in hospital, Keith was rightly proud of his work and today we are going to plant a tree in his memory and rename it Keith’s Corner.

But his legacy was more than just about a physical space. It was about the unintended consequences, the human interactions. He particular stuck up a working relationship with a young lad called Jordan, giving him the work ethic and skills he needed to boost his confidence to find other volunteer opportunities – maybe even a paid job in the future. It was playful, banter with Keith saying that on a building site he wouldn’t be having a break every 15 minutes! Their friendship was a joy to behold and thanks to Keith, Jordan now has the skills to help with other building work at the garden.

I know our small community garden can have a big impact on peoples lives. Especially those that have been ignored, disgarded or dismissed – to realise their full potential, to make them feel part of something.

Keith was part of our team and is sorely missed. Especially when we need someone to weed the onions or plant something in a straight line! So let’s raise a glass and thank him for everything he did at the garden and rename this space in his memory. Cheers mate for everything you did for us. You’ve left a legacy to be proud of.