Steve Cook is the Chair of our Board of Trustees and has been with us at Emmaus Suffolk for three years. Trustees play an important role at Emmaus, offering their skills, knowledge and experience in a voluntary capacity to help in the development and governance of the charity. Whilst Trustees meet as a board throughout year they also go beyond individually supporting the staff team on specific work areas related to their skills
What made you want to be an Emmaus Suffolk trustee?
I was already involved of the Emmaus movement as a Trustee at Emmaus Cambridge for three years, but I was very much aware that the issue of homelessness was increasing across Suffolk. I live in Bury St Edmunds I wanted to help on a more local level. We looked at creating an Emmaus group in West Suffolk, but as Emmaus Ipswich was already up and running it made sense to join forces with the team there to create a county wide charity.
What is your background and what has your career path been?
My career started in 1967 when I sat down one night and watched Cathy Come Home, the Ken Loach film. At that time I hadn’t got a clue what I was going to do when I left school but that prompted me to get into social housing and my whole career has been built around social housing and homelessness services.
I trained as a Housing Manager in Gloucester and have worked in London, Surrey, and the Cotswolds before moving to Suffolk to work for St Edmundsbury Borough Council as Director of Housing and Environmental Health. There I led the transfer of the council’s homes to a new housing association. Those homes included Tayfen House, a direct access hostel and life skills centre in Bury St Edmunds.
I retired in 2010 but continued to run my own housing consultancy working in social housing and homelessness services. I am now the non-exec director of a housing association and of course, I am the Chair of Emmaus Suffolk.
What do you enjoy most about being a trustee at Emmaus Suffolk?
Giving life opportunities to the companions and volunteers. It’s about investing, but not about investing money. It’s about investing time and energy into creating an environment in which our companions can thrive.
Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed or impacted your role as trustee?
Yes, it has. The staff have been very fleet of foot and have been innovative in the way they have adapted to the situation and continued to support the companions and volunteers, and in fact, the wider community. Our Boredom Packs are a great example of this, and we have distributed hundreds of these across the part of the county we operate in since the start of the pandemic and we have funding in place to keep these going for the next few months.
Can you sum up what Emmaus means to you in one sentence?
It is a movement which offers meaningful activities to those living on the margins or are isolated and vulnerable. It gives them the opportunity regain their sense of self-worth and respect.
Tell us something interesting about you
I am a vintage car fan and have my own, a bright red 1959 MGA 1500 Roadster. She’s called Agatha and she was really part of the Emmaus team. We regularly took a van full of items to Wayne Hemmingway Classic Car Boot sales in London but we could only do this if we had a classic car. Agatha came along for the day and enabled us to sell lots of items to raise money for Emmaus.