IT STARTED with a handful of neighbours and 80 bags of rubbish.

Five months, 113 bollards and 73 willing volunteers later, and one Darnley estate has transformed the way residents think and act about the community they live in.

“We have lived here for 22 years, and some of the streets and green areas were becoming so run-down, we thought about moving away,” explains Rob Menzies, who set up Greenacres Helping Hands with his wife Donna in May this year.

“We were so fed up – but we didn’t really want to go, so decided to take on the challenge ourselves.”

The couple, who have a nine-year-old daughter, Sophie, tentatively set up a Facebook page, unsure of how many people would get on board.

The response was overwhelming.

“People have been really supportive and we now have more than 70 members,” smiles Rob, who is a police officer.

“It just kept growing, and we realised so many more people felt the same way we did about really doing something to improve the area we live in.”

Greenacres Helping Hands sums up what our Streets Ahead campaign is all about.

The Evening Times initiative, backed by Glasgow City Council, City Charitable Trust and City Building is back for a ninth year, showcasing and supporting the men, women and children working hard to improve parts of Glasgow for the benefit of all.

Each month, we will bring you stories of fantastic projects and inspiring individuals changing Glasgow for the better.

In June, we will honour those who go the extra mile at our Streets Ahead Awards ceremony, with prizes for the best community initiative, clean-up campaign, environmental initiative and community garden, plus trophies for outstanding schools, green businesses and gardens.

At Greenacres in Darnley, the team, led by Rob and Donna and supported by many of their friends and neighbours, including Danny Glen, Louise O’Brien, Shona Scott and Thomas Morrison, have done a power of work.

Read more: 'Forgotten' part of Glasgow starts to blossom

Shona says: “Rob and Donna worked so hard to get this project going and they have done a lot of great work – it’s really brought back our community spirit.”

Louise agrees. “It encourages us all to make this a clean and safe place for our children to grow up in,” she adds.

“We got Darnley Primary on board, and the whole school came out to do a giant litterpick, which was amazing.

Sophie Menzies and her friends Katie O’Brien, 10, Mia Arthur, nine, and Thomas’s daughters Hayley, six and four-year-old Megan, have formed Greenacres Kidz, encouraging classmates at nearby schools to get involved too.

Even one-year-old Ollie is keen to get in on the act, and have a shot of his big sister’s litter-picker.

Sophie explains: “It’s important to do this because it is helping the environment and saving the animals and birds that live nearby.

“It’s really hard work sometimes but it’s fun.”

Katie agrees. “It’s a good thing to help the environment and to be able to go out and play and feel safe.”

The group targeted litter from the start.

“Years and years of rubbish had gathered in some areas of the estate,” says Rob. “On our first two litter picks we collected 80 bags of rubbish, shopping trolleys, a bed frame and even building materials.

“There is still a huge amount to do in terms of litter but we are getting there slowly.”

The group also weeded the pavements, cut back overhanging trees and bushes, and raised money to sand down and paint the street bollards – all 113 of them.

“That was hard, back breaking work but we did it,” says Rob.

Read more: Streets Ahead returns to celebrate the best community projects in Glasgow

“The next challenge was the roundabout - 22 years of weeds and Scottish weather had definitely taken their toll. So we set about fixing it and restoring it back to its former glory and the results are phenomenal.”

The group has already inspired other communities across the city.

“We have been approached by people keen to do similar things in their own areas, which is amazing,” says Rob. “It’s hard work, of course, but we do all get a lot out of it too. The kids have fun, and seem to really enjoy doing the litter picks and at the end of the day, this will be their community one day.

“Encouraging them to take pride it in now will mean they will look after it in the future.”

The next event is a big litter pick this Saturday (October 19) and the group is hoping to hold social events too, to bring neighbours together, and to get local businesses on board.

Thanks to a Streets Ahead grant of £800, the group is now hoping to continue its inspirational work across the estate.

“There is no point sitting about waiting for someone else to do it,” says Rob. “We are very grateful to the Evening Times Streets Ahead campaign for giving us this much-needed grant – it means a lot to us and will help us buy materials and equipment to help us in our work.”

Future plans include everything from more litterpicks with local schools and grass cutting to clearing out the local river, giving wildlife and birds the chance to breathe.

Rob says: “Our challenge is huge but as a community, I think we can get there.”

Find out more about Streets Ahead at