Realise Futures donates plastic bench

Press Release: 11 February 2014


Realise Futures donates recycled plastic bench designed by triple amputee to help for heroes recovery centre.


Alex Stringer, a former soldier severely injured in Afghanistan is working for leading social enterprise Realise Futures making 100% recycled plastic outdoor furniture, and he has designed a new picnic bench specifically for people with disabilities.


On Tuesday February 11th 2014, the first picnic benches built to 23-year old Alex's design, is being presented to Chevasse VC House, the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre in Colchester, Essex, to be used by recovering armed services personnel.


Alex drew on experience of his own disability to come up with an innovative design which allows wheelchair users to easily access and sit at the bench in comfort alongside able bodied people.  Eco Furniture, the social business where he works - which is a division of Realise Futures - has a tradition of naming products after the person who designed them, so it is called The Alex Bench.


Realise Futures is one of the largest social enterprises in the East of England, employing 370 staff in four business division in six Eastern counties.  A third of its workforce are people who are disabled or disadvantaged, and Realise Futures creates opportunities to enable them to succeed in learning, work and their lives.


The Alex Bench was presented to Help for Heroes Recovery Centre Manager Steve Schollar by Realise Futures CEO Sarah Sharlott.  She said "Our organisation is focused on creating opportunities for people to  succeed in work, learning and life and Alex's picnic bench is a clear demonstration of how this works in practice. We are delighted that Alex is working with us, and even more pleased that his design has made it in to production and will become part of our product range going to help many of his counterparts recovering.  His skills and understanding of the needs of disabled people will now be put to great use in developing more products."


Steve said "Alex has inspired us all with his determination to recover, and to share his experiences and challenges with others as he went through the process.  The Alex Bench is an inspired piece of design that will greatly enhance the practical and social facilities at Chavasse VC House.  We are very grateful to Alex and Eco Furniture for this generation donation."


Alex spent five years in the Army with the 23 Pioneers Regiment, Royal Logistics Corps, and did two tours, one in Cyprus and one in Afghanistan where, at the age of 20, he lost his legs and his forearm as a result of setting off a landmine.


Having completed the picnic bench he is now working on a new design for a potting bench for Hedley Court, a Help for Heroes rehabilitation complex in Surrey where people recovering from their injuries are able to spend time in a therapeutic garden.

All Eco Furniture's outdoor furniture is made from 100% recycled plastic which is weather proof and maintenance free.  Eco Furniture won the British Chamber of Commerce's 2013 Sustainabilty Award in the East of England for its innovative products delivering environmental and social benefits, and has sold its products to leading wildlife attractions such as Colchester Zoo, at home and abroad.