A GREEN-FINGERED couple battling a degenerative disease say volunteering at a hospice’s revamped greenhouse has given them a new lease of life.

Joe and Jackie Crawford, of Crook, have been using the Butterwick Hospice, in Bishop Auckland, for about three years after Mr Crawford was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.

The 57-year-old, who is also living with dementia, said he often visits the hospice, in Woodhouse Lane, for counselling and rheumatology but it is being outside that has really given him purpose.

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Mr Crawford said: “Before I had nothing to do but now this gives me the chance to give something back for what the hospice has done for me.

“It’s so peaceful and therapeutic because it helps me think. When I come here I just leave the rest of the world behind.”

The veteran and grandfather-of-four added: “Without the services I would be a wreck by now – it gives me a purpose to live really.”

As a former gardener for Durham County Council, Mrs Crawford said she also finds volunteering for the charity supportive and the couple regularly bring down plants from their own garden.

The pair are some of the many volunteers enjoying the revamped greenhouse thanks to staff from Marks and Spencer who made it their charity of the year.

The hospice’s community fundraiser, Dionne Kingsley, said the company had raised more than £6,000 for the charity while 15 staff had also used a volunteering day to help with the greenhouse and re-staining all their garden furniture.

She said: “It was the staff that chose the charity and we want to say a big thank you because without those who fundraise for us and the support, we could not open our doors.”

Staff from the Tindale Crescent Retail Park store, including customer assistants, Anne Reay and Vicky Clegg and manager Paul Best, popped down to the hospice on Thursday to see the fruits of their labours.

Ms Reay said: “Butterwick Hospice is the kind of place you hope to goodness you never need but hope to goodness it’s there if you need it.

“Volunteering is phenomenal; it’s really uplifting and the gratification from coming and volunteering is just immense.”

The staff are already planning another day of volunteering to re-stain the hospice’s summerhouse.

The garden will be open to the whole community on July 29 as the hospice will host a strawberry summer fair.

The family fun day will have cake and plant stalls, children’s assault course and a bar and barbecue from 11am until 4pm.

Tickets can be booked online with adult tickets costing £2 with free strawberries and cream and children receiving a free ice pop for £1 entry.

For more information contact Lynn Chewter on 01388-603003 or visit Butterwick.org.uk/strawberry