A unique project has brought Covid-19 back into the forefronts of Little Lever residents’ minds, with the help of those carrying out community service work.

Although the first day of Covid was officially recognised back on December 31, 2019, volunteers working with Community Payback and St Matthew’s Church have been hard at work on a memorial garden.

More than a dozen people came to see the unveiling of the garden and bench, while people paid their respects to those who had lost their lives to Covid.

Operational manager for Community Payback, Anita Barrett said: “Parishioner Jim Barton has been here for so long, he has become very well known in the community, and the community also has an invested interest in the church.

The Bolton News: Anita Barrett and assistant priest Canon Ian AnthonyAnita Barrett and assistant priest Canon Ian Anthony (Image: Newsquest)

“It was Jim’s idea because he felt there was a need for it, to remember those we lost during the pandemic.

“They had so many benches and plants that went all over Greater Manchester, and St Matthew’s Church was one of the chosen ones.”

The memorial bench was donated from a Greater Manchester prison and made by prisoners in there, as well as many other donations made by those in the community.

Head of unpaid work Wayne Wright said: “We are really pleased in terms of the work that has been done and we are pleased it will be used by the people in church.

“It is a King’s Coronation bench made by people in prisons, which was donated by Community Payback.

The Bolton News: From left to right: Steve Walsh and Jim BartonFrom left to right: Steve Walsh and Jim Barton (Image: Newsquest)

“We will continue our rehabilitation work with the church, delivering unpaid work in the communities across Bolton.”

Regular churchgoer David Kelly says that over the 28 years Jim has been at the church, that he did a lot for him, particularly after Covid when his mum Edna died.

Although his mum died from cancer, he questioned whether symptoms would have been picked up sooner if it was not for Covid.

The service was led by assistant priest Canon Ian Anthony and church warden Dennis Hodson who read out name prayers, including one especially for Covid.

Jim said: “During Covid people couldn’t go to funerals or pay their respects, and we wanted to put something down so people could have somewhere to sit and think about their loved ones.”

Community service supervisor Steve Walsh was particularly impressed with how far along the project had come compared to how it was when it started.

He said: “As a supervisor supervising the lads, it’s superb to see something like this compared to what it was.”

The aim of Community Payback is to work with those on probation and to support them on a variety of projects including litter picking, collecting fly tipping or looking after graves, across Bolton, Salford, and Wigan.

Those in the community who most notably helped with donations include Reece Gibbons, Kath Nurse, Dorothy Waters, AB Memorials, and Matthew Brown.

If you have a story and something you would like to highlight in the community, please email me at jasmine.jackson@newsquest.co.uk or DM me on Twitter @JournoJasmine.