Its time to say goodbye from me as CEO from Hope after more than six years. I leave on the 15th after my last board meeting. I am pleased to welcome Alex Copeland as my successor, who will do great things, I am sure. I could not be handing over to a nicer person, with lots of skills and experience.
There is so much that could be said and it would take a long time to say it. I will try to be careful to keep this short.
It’s been an honour and a privilege to run a charity like Hope given the importance of the work it does. Sadly poverty and homelessness are always with us and the needs people have are increasing, not going away. I hope that I have done my best and have always tried to work solely for the benefit of those we work with – the most disadvantaged and damaged in our society.
I have had the support of a fantastic board and staff team. I have enormous respect for our chair, Ben Leadsom and other trustees over the years who have supported me throughout. Jackie Dunn, Charles Manners and Peter Nightingale are some of those who supported me the most, along with the late John Smith.
My senior management team, Lee Coyle and Louise Danielczuk have been the best I have ever had in four spells of being a charity CEO. I love you both and will miss you immensely.
The bond between us has been forged in some adversity we have faced; It’s not always been plain sailing. I’m not going to go through all this, but of course, the threatened eviction from Oasis and above all, Covid stand out. I am proud that as a team we got through it, stronger and better than ever.
So who else? Staff of course, too many to name all of you and for fear of missing somebody. You know how much I value all your contributions. Volunteers too, in all shapes and sizes, service user volunteers like Chris and Steve, Juris at the art group, group leaders like Maureen and Helene in art, Tim, Claerwen, Sue and so many more in foodclub, Dave and Lorna in creative writing, driver Andrew, Peter S; John, Maggie in the hand up; my friend Bishop Andrew. Forgive me anyone who I have not listed.
I have very much liked working to teach, train and support young people as they begin their journey into this area of work, especially my two postgrad trainees, Toby and Hannah, and the countless social work students, some not so young, whom I have supervised.
We have worked with many others in partnership, in other organisations, working on issues like sustainable food and social enterprise development. One chairing role I take with me, as I will still be chairing the FAAWN food poverty alliance, which I worked very hard to establish with friends and colleagues in other food aid agencies. For you see I am not retiring, just doing other things: chairing FAAWN, carrying on teaching at the University, chairing the local Healthwatch advisory board to represent patient interests, and offering mentoring and coaching and charity consulting generally to local charities – see firstname.lastname@example.org
It would be easy to put my feet up. But too much needs doing. People who were already poor face a bleak future of worsening poverty and indifference from government. Inequality, which brought me back from working in London to try to do something very practical on the ground here, is worse than ever. Whoever we are, we have a duty to use our skills, our experience and our passion to drive change, not for our own glory or recompense, but solely for those without voice. As a CEO of a poverty charity you have to use the role you have, to work for them, to use your influence and profile to speak when they cannot, pushing yourself, as proxy for them, into the spotlight. If that ever seemed like it was all about me, it wasn’t. I am nobody, just the person who for a while, had the responsibility to be there as their advocate, their sponsor and their voice. It’s a privilege to have done so.