One of the best things about working for Wates (still a new experience for me, five months into my role as Wates Family Charities Director) is seeing what the Wates family and the Group’s philanthropic commitment means in practice. Does it make a real difference to people in the places in which we operate?
So – ably guided by Liam Manton, Community Investment Adviser for Wates Residential – Andy Wates, Chairman of the Wates Family Enterprise Trust (WFET); Andrew Wates, Family Shareholder and patron of the WFET; and I, went to Manchester to find out…
We started at the Factory Youth Zone (FYZ) in inner-city Harpurhey. Wates Giving has previously supported the FYZ centre in Oldham and may fund the new Wolverhampton set-up. There, Richard Marsh, Chief Executive of the FYZ chain, told us that 1,000 young people in the last week alone had been given the opportunity to develop new skills and improve their employability at the FYZ centre – and according to FYZ, the proof of the pudding is a 50% reduction in local anti-social behaviour.
Our next stop was the Veterans’ Village in Newton Heath, which was featured in last year’s BBC DIY SOS programme. Manchester City Council underlined the invaluable contribution from Wates Group to the reconstruction of this almost derelict street, turning it into a thriving community now run by charity Walking with the Wounded (WWTW). Wates Giving followed up this transformation with a £20,000 grant to help veterans, struggling with physical and mental problems, to get back on track.
We were joined on the visit to the Veteran’s Village by the Lord Mayor of Manchester, Carl Austin-Behan, who told us how highly he regards the work Wates does across Manchester.
In addition, local WWTW head Gary Lamb thanked Wates for all the vital work done after the cameras stopped rolling. The charity is now helping 120 veterans get back into housing and employment, and out of prison. The ex-offender rehabilitation scheme has a 96% success rate.
Then our final stop took us south to the Barlow Moor Community Association (BMCA) community centre, an oasis of purposeful activity, built by Wates for Southway Housing Trust. In 2013, Wates Giving made a £20,000 grant towards development of the ‘Children’s Zone’ within the community centre, and then in 2015, a further Wates Giving award was made – £17,500 towards the salary costs of the centre manager, Julie Mrozek.
The 2,500 homes nearby have a high proportion of disadvantaged families, and last year over 1,300 of them called on the services available, which include employability, child care, youth activities and health and nutrition. Without the centre, many families would simply fail to cope. The Chair of Trustees for BMCA paid particular tribute to the outstanding contribution of Wates’ project manager Mick Cunningham – and the centre’s principal room has been named in his honour!
It was an inspiring day which illustrated vividly what a difference Wates Group’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme and Wates Giving makes, especially when Wates people get involved too. And the answer to the question at the start – a resounding yes!