Two of Blackpool’s youngest and oldest charity leaders are celebrating their contribution to the resort’s third sector.
The Ashley Foundation (TAF) has one of the town’s most diverse board of trustees – with members aged from their 20s to their 80s – to bring a mix of time-served experience and youthful enthusiasm to the homeless charity.
Now TAF, which supports more than 100 people every night across its three hostels and 40 move-on flats, is celebrating their contributions during the Charity Commission’s National Trustees Week this week.
The trustees oversee the strategy of the charity, as its team of staff and volunteers help marginalised adults to improve their confidence, skills and life chances.
Ashley Dribben is the charity’s youngest trustee, at 26. The former Arnold School pupil has sat on the board for two years but been part of the organisation since he was just a child – as the charity’s namesake and son of its founders.
Young Ashley provided inspiration for the charity’s name when he wandered into a meeting about establishing the organisation in 1997, as his parents – CEO Lee Dribben and his late wife Gail – were considering a suitable name.
He said: “It’s given me a much greater insight into people from all walks of life.
“I’d spend school holidays at work with my mum so have always been interested in people’s stories – how they come to experience either the success or the deprivation that you might see of them on any one day. I know that things aren’t always what they seem, that the person you see today isn’t all they are, everyone’s got a story that’s got them to that point.”
Conversely, trustees chairman Roy Alleway admits a lifetime of views were challenged upon joining TAF.
He said: “My perceptions have been changed since working with TAF – understanding that around 75% of our residents have mental health problems and knowing that so many of our residents are young people, it shocked me and made me appreciate the barriers many of them face.
“Now I’m able to challenge other people’s perceptions and make them see the difficulties homeless people face.”
The trustees feel they have a duty to challenge stigma associated with homelessness.
Mr Dribben added: “There’s a standard problem that we face, of people not wanting to live next door to a hostel or move-on flats, but when we invite neighbours in they’re always impressed with how nice they are and how well they’re managed.”
The oldest on the board, Mr Alleway is 84, the retired management consultant joined as a trustee of the charity 13 years ago with his colleague Neville Bramhall.
The charity’s other trustees include Dave Kam, who manages charity shop Homeless Action which supports TAF, and Wendy Swift, who is interim chief executive of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Mr Alleway added: “It’s very important to have variety in your trustees – it just wouldn’t work to have a board all the same age and with the same experience.
“One might cynically say that being a trustee keeps me going , which it does to a degree – it gives me a target in life. But I like to make the contribution too. I like to go out to the hostels, to talk to residents and get an understanding of how things are. That’s my reason for being a trustee. I’m pleased to have that opportunity to see how people are coping.”
Mr Dribben Jnr, managing director of Metcalf’s Estate Agents on Topping Street, Blackpool, also regularly drops in on the TAF offices and hostels. He added: “I’ve always thought it good to be involved – I suppose it’s a family legacy. I’m proud to be part of it.”