Before starting as Chief Executive at Emmaus Colchester, I had a varied career trajectory. I grew up in Braintree, Essex where I worked in Barclays Bank, relocating to a Northamptonshire branch and then on to Barclaycard. After 20 years with the bank, I took voluntary redundancy and decided to take some time to figure out how I could help people close to home.
At that time I went back to university part time and before I knew what was happening, I had set up a charity in Northamptonshire. I took over a community centre from the council that had never been opened, but it was in the right location and had the potential to serve the local people. After working with the trustees, we were granted lottery funding, and I’m pleased to say it that it is still going today.
I then took a role as commissioner for Suffolk County Council, which allowed me to move back and be closer to my family. My role was to make sure that the council was offering the right services, at the right time, to the right people, especially to those adults with learning disabilities. I love working with vulnerable adults and listening to people and I hope to continue listening and making life a little easier for our companions at Emmaus Colchester.
I’ve been in the post for a while now, and it’s evident just how strong the team is – they work really hard, which makes my job easier. What I love most about Emmaus, though, is its heart.
In terms of my challenges, I’m working on solutions to enable us to be more financially sustainable. A total of 70% of our income comes through our social enterprise, with the remaining income from Housing Benefit. Changes to the welfare system can have a negative impact on people, and this worries me. At Emmaus, we need to raise more money through our social enterprise to combat the changes to welfare.
This means looking at new ways to bring in income. We have recently opened our Emmaus New Life Shop and Café on Crouch Street and refurbished our Home Shop on the high street, with the intention to give our customers a great shopping experience and increase our income.
In the time that I’ve been at Emmaus, I’ve come to fully understand how vulnerable people become homeless and why they feel the system can go against them. And as a community, it is for us to come together and support those vulnerable adults and to help them get their lives back on track.
There are many things that you can do to help. Enjoy coffee and cake in our New Life Cafe on Crouch Street, support us and buy items from our shops, donate your preloved items, fundraise, or even volunteer! Whatever you choose, the profit we make goes directly to benefit our companions, by providing them with a home and the opportunity to regain their self esteem, helping them to move on successfully with their lives.