Don Pinchbeck is Emmaus North East’s founding trustee who helped to set up the charity in 1991. Don has remained an active trustee ever since and has recently received an inaugural Founders’ Medal from Emmaus UK, as part of their 30th Anniversary celebrations.

Don’s First Introduction to Emmaus

It all started about 20 years ago as I was working with Selwyn Image CBE (Founder and Vice-President of Emmaus UK) on something entirely disconnected from Emmaus. He watched me working in one or two businesses and we became quite close friends. One day we were working in Cambridge and he took me to see Emmaus Cambridge.

I was really taken, not just by the establishment, but the principle behind it and the notion that restoring self-esteem can be done through work and providing skills that would enable someone to move back on into society. It generates a feeling that they want to in help others that are even worse off.

The whole model seemed so complete. Of course, in those days I don’t think social enterprise was a concept that had been really thought through, but that’s exactly what Emmaus was. For a number of years my link with Emmaus was on and off because in those days I was doing company turnarounds and running subsidiaries of multinationals, so my time was very limited.

Setting up Emmaus North East

When I retired, I asked my wife, “where would you like to live?” She said she wanted to be near the grandchildren, and I said I wanted to live by the seaside. It just so happened that the only grandchild we had back then was in Whitely Bay (North Tyneside). We moved to Whitely Bay so she got the grandchild and I got the seaside. When I was a child I used to live in Scarborough so the seaside has always been close to me.

Being in the North East, I had a call from Selwyn saying ‘Don we’re trying to establish a group in the North East. It doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Can you lend a hand’. I was a rather more free by then so I got involved and it just so happened that the group of people all wanted to be involved but didn’t want to do any work. That group fell apart.

A few years after that there was a lady called Monica Grant who was a retired social worker. She had a bash to set up another group in the North East. I was involved again and this time I said ‘right I’m not going to let this one go’. So I worked Emmaus North East to see it through and I am still with that group today. It’s now flourishing and has gone from a group to a community and as a community it is growing. I’ve seen trustees come and go and I’ve been the one constant factor throughout that time.

From Gateshead to South Shields

We were originally based in Gateshead as ‘Emmaus Gateshead’, but then I realised that being in Gateshead wasn’t going to work. Nimby councillors blocked the progress. So through a housing association, I got involved with South Tyneside council. I found a contact there who was very supportive and very quickly we became established in South Shields instead.

Working with Emmaus UK

My role today is to act mainly in support of the ENE Chair, to add business expertise to the Board and Management, and to coach, mentor and advise new trustees.

It has been very difficult to visit the Community for some time now, but I expect that soon, this vital link will resume. I was involved in setting up the workshop, recruiting Noel, the very special workshop manager, and for fund raising purposes, wrote the outline business plan.

I was invited to join the board of Emmaus UK and over a period of time we evolved the strategy for the whole of the federation. It had to be quite carefully phrased as you can’t tell communities what to do, but we evolved something that we felt could have a good chance of uniting the federation. That strategy went to all the communities who read it, commented, and some minor changes were made. The strategy was accepted unanimously by the members. Copies of that then went out to all of the ex-federation members, the ones that had left like Cambridge and Dover.

They read it and said ‘we can buy into that’. They worked with Chair John Noble to the point where they all came back and joined the federation.  I believe that if you want to do well as a community, the support of Emmaus UK is very important, so you have to play the game.

Don’s Role Today

My main role today is to act mainly in support of the ENE Chair, to add business expertise to the Board and Management, and to coach, mentor and advise new trustees.

It has been very difficult to visit the Community for some time now, but I expect that soon, this vital link will resume. I was involved in setting up the workshop, recruiting Noel, the very special workshop manager, and for fund raising purposes, wrote the outline business plan.

We are extremely grateful to Don for all the years of hard work and expertise that he has given to Emmaus North East and hope he continues to be part of our charity for many more years to come.