FRIENDSHIP and wholesome fresh food served up with a smile is bringing people through the doors at Belville Community Garden.

Volunteer Michelle Markey is one of the team to welcome visitors through the door for weekly 'soup and a blether' drop-ins which are proving hugely popular.

She started going to the gardens a year ago and says it's changed her life.

Now the 50-year-old, who has battled mental health problems, is busy helping others as well.

Michelle, who has had depression and anxiety for the last 18 years, says the project has given her hope for the future.

She said: "Being at Belville makes me so happy.

"It has had the biggest influence on my life.

"It gives you family, friends, the outdoors and makes you feel safe."

Michelle was referred to the east end community project through SAMH.

The Belville volunteer, who lives with her partner James Paton and her 18-year-old daughter in Bawhirley Road, said: "I started with the gardening club.

"I had never grown anything in my life - now I have an allotment!

"I am now front of house here and I could never have done that a year ago, I couldn't even look people in the eye.

"Thanks to Belville I am looking forward to the future and I hope I can even get a job again."

At the weekly soup and blether in Belville Community Gardens centre at 53 to 57 Belville Street, Michelle joins management, staff and volunteers to serve all the people dropping in.

A group from Craigmarloch School visit every week too.

Their teacher Karen McDonald said: "It is a fantastic place, everyone is so friendly and the group we bring here love it."

Local woman Heather MacBryde comes along for a weekly lunch and to make new friends.

She told the Tele: "You leave a donation and you get so much in return.

"It's a brilliant place, people are just so friendly."

Your Voice community connector Amanda McEwan says she regularly refers people to the drop-in.

She said: "It is such a lovely warm place.

"It's important to have places like this in Inverclyde."

* Soup and a blether is on every Friday in Belville Community Garden from noon to 1pm.

To find out more go along or call 726034.