Partnership is making a real difference to so many lives - Iain MItchell

January 2020: a simpler time filled with optimism and hope. For Support in Mind Scotland the beginning of the roaring 20s brought a sense of tremendous excitement as it was announced we’d been successful in our bid to become the charity partner of Lothian Buses.

Support in Mind Scotland staff and people they support with the Lothian bus with Support in Mind Scotland livery
Support in Mind Scotland staff and people they support with the Lothian bus with Support in Mind Scotland livery

Cue much enthusiasm and creative suggestions around what we could do together. Besides the fundraising events, open days and volunteering opportunities though, the most exciting and arguably most important element of the partnership was that we would get our very own bus, branded with Support in Mind Scotland livery. From an awareness raising perspective this would be vital.

Then everything ground to a halt. I won’t labour this because we all lived through it, but as with many businesses, it was an incredibly difficult time for Lothian Buses. For me, this was highlighted most jarringly by my home office affording me the perfect vantage point of the almost completely empty buses that passed by the flat.

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Therefore, when our Edinburgh Area Manager Michele Mason and I were invited for a meeting (an actual in-person meeting!) with Lothian Buses a few months back, we were not sure if we’d reached the end of the road. When they revealed that not only were they extending the partnership, but also that some money had been found “down the back of the sofa” and we would be getting our branded bus. We had to pick our jaws up off the floor.

Prior to this revelation, I don’t think anyone could’ve blamed Lothian had they called time on the partnership. This option was thankfully never entertained, and they continued to support us as much as possible and make the best of the situation. When raising money wasn’t possible, they raised awareness, most notably by involving us heavily in their open day. A popular occasion that usually sees their Annandale Street depot buzzing with people and activity now took the form of a series of online segments and interviews, with staff members taking us through the work of every department in the organisation and plenty time dedicated to promoting our work.

They answered the call when we needed help preparing the garden at our Stafford Centre service before the installation of our urban pod resource - affectionately referred to as ‘Peace in a Pod’ - by sending us a group of very enthusiastic and hardworking volunteers. Soon after, they held a ‘Superhero Day’ where staff dressed up, raised money to kit out the interior of the pod itself and now collecting items such as tinned food, biscuits and toiletries which will be donated to users of our services.

Massive kudos goes to Gaynor Marshall and Sarah Taylor for their support and determination to be the best charity partner possible, and to all Lothian Buses’ staff who have fundraised, volunteered or who approached us during our depot visits sharing their experiences of mental health. Thank you all for making this incredibly worthwhile.

Winter 2021 is creeping up, it’s a time filled with renewed optimism. This partnership makes that difference to many lives and thanks to Lothian Buses for recognising the work of Support in Mind Scotland in helping so many.

Iain Mitchell, Senior Community Partnership Fundraising Officer. Support in Mind Scotland

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