Trustee Interview – Hannah Blake

Name:                   Hannah Blake   

Charity:                Beverley Cherry Tree Community Centre

Bio – Personal and professional experience and passions

I am a 26 year old PhD student at Cardiff University. I became part of the Beverley Cherry Tree Community Centre when I became an undergraduate student in 2010. My experience of volunteering led to my dissertation being based on the Centre and its volunteers. This then increased my interest in the role of volunteers in charities and as such I went on to complete my Master’s degree at the University of York studying volunteers based in charities in East Yorkshire.

 Please provide a brief description on your charity – what are your aims? 

The Beverley Cherry Tree Community Centre is situated on the Swinemoor Estate in Beverley, East Yorkshire. The community centre was established in 1993 and has become an integral part of the local community. The centre comprises of a pre-school and out of school club and an advice service. The advice service, run by a manager and a host of volunteers, serves anyone living in East Yorkshire and aims to provide free confidential advice on matters ranging from benefits, homelessness, employment, housing, disabilities and debt. A solicitor visits the centre on a weekly basis to provide free legal advice.

A relationship has been fostered with local the local foodbank and we work with the local supermarkets who donate their surplus food for us to be able to hand out to local families in need.

The Centre is also a home for a local stroke club, a newly set up youth club, a women’s group, pensioner’s bingo, and a parent and toddler group.

Q&A Questions

  1. How long have you been a trustee?

I have been a trustee at Beverley Cherry Tree Community Centre since 2014. When I became a trustee I also took on the role of secretary. In 2016 I stepped back from this role as I moved away to Cardiff to undertake a PhD. I now keep in contact through phone calls and emails and I facetime in to all the committee meetings. The Centre’s manager and all the trustees know I am available to speak to them whenever they need my opinion or vote on an issue.

  1. What made you want to become a trustee?

I had already been a volunteer at the Centre since 2010. In my volunteering role I provided advice to clients and undertook essential administrative duties. As a volunteer I was always interested in what took place in the committee meetings and wanted to be able to impact the charity to the best of my ability. As such, when a space became available due to several trustees stepping down I was happy to be asked to become their youngest ever trustee.

  1. Why did you want to support a charity in (insert sector)? E.g. Arts/International/Animals.

Prior to volunteering at the Centre I was aware of the great work the charity did in the local community and particularly with friends and family members. I had just started a degree at the University of Hull studying Sociology and so I thought it would be a great time to do something for others that also fitted with my studying.

  1. Did you know much about this charitable cause before you became involved as a trustee?

Yes, I had been a volunteer for four years prior to becoming a trustee so I was aware of all the work that they did/do for those in need in the local community.

  1. What do you feel trusteeship adds to your personal and professional development?

I think becoming a trustee has opened my eyes to the running of charities and all the behind the scenes efforts that take place to keep a charity on its feet. I feel it has enabled me to become a more rounded individual, not only with the variety of different people and personalities I have met but also it has provided me with an experience I would not have had if I had never been a trustee.

  1. What value have you been able to add to your charity with your personal and professional experience?

I think by being significantly younger than the other trustees I have been able to provide a different point of view and some out of the box thinking that was missing. An extra head is always good in a group of trustees, but a younger perspective has helped provide new ideas and new ways of doing things.

  1. What do you think is the biggest challenge currently facing charities?

I think by far the biggest challenge facing my charity is the lack of funding. Luckily the income from the pre-school and out of school club supports the running of the building and the centre and more recently we have benefitted from a grant from Key Fund and a Big Lottery Grant has definitely eased the pressure for the time being. However, with the changes in benefits we have noticed a huge increase in individuals suffering both with their finances and their health and this is a big issue for us.

  1. What would you say are the important attributes a trustee should have?

A good trustee definitely needs to have the ability to listen and take in what other people have to say, without this it will inevitably lead to frictions among the rest of the trustees. Overall though I think being able to work together with other trustees and keeping the best interests of the charity and its users at the forefront of your decision making needs to be the most important attribute that any trustee can hold.

  1. If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about becoming a trustee what would it be?

It is a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone thinking about it. I would say, however, that it is not an easy experience, and not a decision to be taken half-heartedly.