If you wanted an example of community in action, a visit to your nearest community garden would be as ideal a stop as any.
And Tugun’s Southern Beaches Community Garden would be no exception. From garden beds which need building, grounds that need tending, compost bins that need turning and pony poo runs that need manning…
There’s plenty of work of the volunteer variety to go around. And, yet, that would only be half of the ‘community in action’ story.
Because, without funding from generous donors, all that work doesn’t even get off the ground. And in the case of the SBCG, chances are extremely good that generous donor would be the Tugun Branch of Bendigo Bank.
Yes, since the garden’s inception in 2009, Tugun’s Bendigo Bank has offered the garden’s members and the community, in general, its unwavering support. A level of community support that is extremely rare.
And one person that knows this better than anyone is Bendigo’s Tugun Branch Manager, Allan Merlehan.
So, that said, we at the SBCG wanted to show our gratitude by giving Allan the floor. To give him the opportunity to answer a few questions and, in doing so, to shed a little light on the banking mindset that has helped to separate and distinguish themselves from the rest of the banking, big player herd.
All while simultaneously helping the SBCG grow as much as it has.
So, Allan, how long have you worked for the Tugun Branch of Bendigo Bank? As a banker in general?
I’ve been at Tugun for I0 years and in finance for a total of 36.
Was there anything overly unique or special about the bank that sort of drew you to the place?
The ‘Community’ focus was one aspect and the other was they had bank managers with authority in their branches, so you had decision-makers at ground-level.
Having worked there for as long as you have, what do you feel makes Bendigo Bank different from other banks?
The bank’s focus on the customer & the community.
On average, how much does Bendigo Bank put back into the community each year?
Our branch directly sponsors about $90k.
When do you remember first hearing about the Southern Beaches Community Garden and how has the Tugun Branch been involved with the garden?
I heard about them very soon after I arrived in Tugun in January 2010. Since then our Tugun Community Bank Branch has provided over $32,000 in funding to assist with projects such as the propagation tunnel, water tanks, a covered seating area and a trailer. Our directors and staff have also volunteered in a working bee.
What were your first impressions of the organisation?
They immediately came across as a group of determined people wanting to improve their local community.
Since then, what have you found most interesting or impressive about the garden?
How the garden has continued to evolve from the initial concept 10 years ago to what it is today.
Do you find any similarities between the goals of your bank and the SBCG?
The goal of connecting with your local community & endeavouring to make a difference.
After so much involvement with the garden, what are your thoughts as you walk around the grounds that, over the years, you’ve had such a significant hand in helping to shape?
I believe it is the members who have had a significant hand in shaping the garden into what it is today. We have assisted where we can, but it is the determination and hard work of the committee and the members of the SBCG that has brought that concept 10 years ago into a reality.
Of Bendigo Bank’s Tugun Branch’s many contributions to the local community, is there one that makes you most proud? If so, which one and why?
I am proud of all our contributions in the community, whether that is in a dollar value, the sharing of knowledge or the volunteering of time. It’s not so much the contribution, but what it enables others to do, that makes a difference for our community.