Andy Hallisey, Liam Nixon and Neha Patel, customers hosts at Hatch End station, won the 2021 Railway Benefit Fund ‘Heart of Gold’ Team Award in recognition of the fantastic work they have done with their local community. Hear from them below…

We are extremely honoured to have won the ‘Heart of Gold’ Team Award in 2021. We won the award alongside our station cleaner Anthony Parker, from Carlisle Support Services, Lucy Halliday from the Headstone Horticultural Society, Sheila Reid from the Hatch End Association and the many other local residents who volunteer at the station. It recognises the work that we have collectively put in to make the station a hub for the community.

Working closely with our local community has always been important to us. We have operated a book exchange since 2016 which raises money for local charities. People drop off their unwanted books, we sanitise them and then we put them out for others to enjoy for a small donation.

In addition to supporting the Hatch End community, our book exchange has also benefited communities abroad. Last year, agency contractor Claudiu Romocea made a very generous donation for a number of books which he then donated and distributed among schools, a library and an orphanage in his village near Timisoara, Romania.

As a team, we take great pride in our Overground in Bloom floral displays. Overground in Bloom is an annual gardening competition that encourages stations, depots and sidings across the
London Overground to plant flowers and gardens. It brings teams together, helps to increases biodiversity across the network and also brightens up stations for customers.

Every summer we put on the best possible flower display for our community, often coming in on our days off or staying late to maintain the displays. Alongside this, we have developed a station allotment which we grow fruit and vegetables in. Everything we grow at the station is given away to the public either for free or a small donation. In 2021, we won five awards for our floral displays and gardens, including the ‘Best in Show’ awards in both the Overground in Bloom competition and TfL’s separate In Bloom competition.

Of course, it is not just a three-person team that contributes to the success of our gardens. We work closely with the Headstone Horticultural Society, a local not-for-profit organisation that offers
horticultural advice, sells plants and gardening products, and supports vulnerable members of the community. Lucy Halliday, who runs the society, and her team have been a huge support to us by providing us with flowers and helping us to plant them. Without them, our floral displays simply wouldn’t be possible. Our station cleaner Anthony Parker has also been outstanding in helping to keep the flowers watered and the station neat and tidy.

Each year, we also host community ‘open days’ where we invite local residents to the station. It is an opportunity for customers to meet us, join tours of the gardens and support local charities. We provide complimentary teas/coffees, homemade cakes and sandwiches, and London Overground branded goodies which are given out by volunteers from our head office. Although everything at the community day is provided free of charge, we leave donation tins dotted around the station and over the years we have raised thousands of pounds for St Luke’s Hospice, Sense, The Soldier’s Charity, Pancreatic Cancer UK and our gardens.

This year, we plan to develop a peace garden on a patch of unused station land, turning an overgrown area into an oasis for local residents to enjoy. Our colleague Phil Palmer sadly passed away in 2019 and the garden will be developed in his honour. Phil originally started the gardens at the station and he taught us the importance of community engagement. Even though he is no longer with us, he still feels like a part of the team and we look forward to developing the peace garden together in his memory.

We also appreciate that the last two years have been a time of great loss for many people. We will therefore be accepting donations of plants for the peace garden from members of the public who have lost loved ones themselves, which we will look after and nurture in their memory. Our hope is that the peace garden will become a special place for the community for quiet contemplation and reflection.

We try to engage with the public yearround through smaller initiatives too, such as giving out packets of love hearts around Valentine’s Day, chocolate eggs at Easter and having goodies for children on our Christmas tree.

We are really proud of what we have achieved so far at Hatch End station and are excited to see what else we can do in the future alongside local residents and community groups.