Volunteering sets Gary on road to recovery
A Salford man thought he’d never work again after being conned out of thousands of pounds, which sent him spiralling into depression and lost him his job.
At the age of 57 and with a long career as a skilled carpet fitter, which saw him travelling all over Europe, Gary Simmons should have been looking forward to retirement. Instead he found himself swindled out of a large sum of money and just when he thought things couldn’t get any worse, he was made redundant a week before Christmas.
With no steady income, Gary had no way of ever recouping his nest egg and after unsuccessfully applying for over 200 jobs, he was starting to lose hope that he’d ever work again.
That was until he was offered a lifeline by Pendleton Together. After three years of being unemployed, Gary joined Pendleton Together on a voluntary work placement as part of Salford Council’s Salford Futures Programme. Within three months, Gary secured a permanent paid position in the Estates Services team.
Gary said: “I loved my job as a carpet fitter and I was good at it. But my life fell apart on the day I realised somebody had fraudulently accessed my bank account and stolen thousands of pounds I felt stupid that somebody had been able to steal from me for two years without me realising. It totally knocked my confidence and I ended up being diagnosed with depression.
“I still wanted to work but I couldn’t face the daily 100 mile roundtrip to Leeds. My doctor signed me off sick and the week before Christmas I was let go. This knocked my self-esteem even further and I felt ashamed that I had to rely on benefits to get by when I was a proud man who had worked all my life.
Gary was so low that he could barely string a sentence together and even struggled to remember his own name most days. Speaking about battling with his own mind, he said: “It was like sinking slowly down into whirlpool and I was fighting for breath to get out. I felt like I had lots of little sharks biting at me, anything that happened in my life was attacking me and I couldn’t see a way out.”
After three years of unemployment, Gary was determined to get his life back on track with the support of Working Well, a service designed to help people overcome barriers to work. The service not only helped Gary recover all of his stolen money but also set him on the path to work by introducing him to volunteering to get some routine back in his life.
Working Well introduced Gary to Salford Council’s Salford Futures Programme, which provides support to unemployed Salford residents through work experience placements. It was through this organisation that Gary was referred to Pendleton Together.
Gary started volunteering four days a week as an estates worker, mainly looking after the grounds and maintaining the communal areas. Through socialising with residents and colleagues, Gary started to regain his confidence so when a full-time job came up, he applied and was successfully appointed.
He said: “At my age, I thought volunteering would be the best way to get back into work. I hadn’t worked for so long that I didn’t know what I could do, physically or mentally. I had to build myself up and push myself. When the depression hit, I couldn’t think about anything else but since I started volunteering, I had a goal of securing a job. Now I can go home every day knowing I’ve achieved something.”
He added:“I’m so grateful for the support of Pendleton Together, Working Well and Salford Futures for the opportunities they gave me. I’m proud of how far I’ve come and, while I know I still have a lot to overcome, the future is bright.”
Darryl Cook from Working Well said: “Throughout Gary’s time on Working Well he has recognised, himself, the barriers he faced and accepted all kinds of support we gave to help him move forward. We quickly noticed Gary expressing a real interest in horticulture / gardening.
“Initially Gary started occasional volunteering with Royal Horticultural Society this led to more regular volunteering with Garden Needs and eventually onto Salford Futures. None of this would have been possible without Gary positively accepting support and proactively taking on volunteering activities to help reach his goals.”
Deputy City Mayor, Councillor John Merry, added: “Gary was really determined to change his situation for the better and always remained positive. It’s fantastic to see how far he’s come in just a short space of time.
“I’m not surprised Gary has found work with Pendleton Together. He has a lot to offer and demonstrated he would be a great asset to any organisation. Gary’s personality shone through whilst on Salford Futures and they saw him grow in confidence. Gary’s an inspiration to others and we’re all really proud of what he’s achieved. Thanks to Pendleton Together and Working Well too for providing Gary with the support and the opportunity he needed to get back on his feet.”