Cheltenham’s YMCA held a celebration on the 20th September, opening their doors to guests and the community, to honour 167 years of the annual meeting.
To build the atmosphere of the exciting evening, BeanBaker, a local band – played live music. As Indie tunes drifted through the air, many people followed suit and gathered in the hall. The Sports Centre on College Drive, that is usually busy with the chaos of local community sports teams or ongoing activities, had been transformed for the evening – tables draped with white cloths and chairs laden with complementary gift bags, atmospheric lighting, calming music and of course, a great buffet.
The celebration was off to a start with a welcome speech from Rob Charsley (Head of Health and Well-being) and soon Mike Horne from the Chair of Trustees joined in with an opening devotion. Both had lots to say in terms of gratitude towards the public that constantly supports the charity and how remarkable it is to be planning ahead for the future after 167 years of success.
Lindsey Power spoke of the past year of the project ‘Family Space’ a scheme that aims to help unite families through workshops and activities. Side projects within this family space sector include daycare and events like pre-school graduation to help younger children enjoy their own milestones. Mentions of other development groups within the YMCA organisation were also discussed, such as partnerships with (and donations to) food banks.
Next, the Chief Executive, Joseph Main, began to talk of the success of the past year at the YMCA Cheltenham. This year, a huge amount of £14,358 was invested into resident health and wellbeing activities, with more than 195.5 hours spent hosting activities for the community to get involved in. The YMCA Housing Services have provided 69,706 nights of safe, supportive, and welcoming accommodation.
Going into the next year, the YMCA looks to expand their services and help more people than ever, with the objective to ‘turn growth into resilience.’ This year staff helped 6,210 people (equivalent to 5.2% of the Cheltenham population) and with £1,000,000+ new funds for investment into housing and tackling homelessness, the ambition is to extend more aid and assistance to the community.
A plan has been developed for next year, targeted at increasing key delivery in six key areas – The Pathway Home, Family Space, Contact Centre, Playgroup, Feed Cheltenham and finally, Sports, Health & Wellbeing.
The ongoing development of Vittoria Walk (Cheltenham), Vauxhall Road (Gloucester) and Number 3 (Gloucester), will open the opportunity of allowing £2,242,253 new funds to be invested into the areas of Cheltenham and Gloucester.
As the speeches came to an end and the reality of the achievements made this year alone, began to sink in, a raucous applause erupted from all corners of the room. Amongst the applauding audience, sat Dame Janet Trotter President of YMCA Cheltenham and Edward Gillespie – His Majesties’ Lord-Lieutenant of Gloucestershire. Both there with a smile of pride on their faces.
As the event came to a close, the Mayor and Mayoress joined the crowd in exploring the stands at the back of the room that explained some of the opportunities provided by the YMCA including those discussed during the presentation; Feed Cheltenham, Playgroup, Contact Centre and the Housing Services.
The YMCA becomes increasingly important as the incline of poverty impacts the UK during the cost of living crisis. As a result, Cheltenham YMCA strives for more successful times ahead because here we are ‘driven by the good we do.’
Written and photographed by Bethan Croft