Charity Blog: Improving Lives Plymouth

Charity Blog: Improving Lives Plymouth

A talk with George Plenderleith of Improving Lives Plymouth. Thank you for working with us to create a unique blog about you, and the development of your charity. We hope this will help to raise awareness of all that has been achieved so far and help to develop the further the aims of the charity.

1. To start us off, please can you let us know a little about how the charity was founded and your motivation?

Improving Lives Plymouth was established in 1907 in response to a letter in the Western Evening Herald from a woman in Oldham, Mary Higgs. She appealed in her letter for people to “help the needy by providing better housing, salvation from drink and true citizenship”. This led to a public meeting on 19 March 1907 to consider the need for an organisation to do just that and the Plymouth Civic Guild of Help was inaugurated on 23 September the same year. We are now Improving Lives Plymouth.

As CEO I am passionate about people, Plymouth, Improving Lives Plymouth, and the voluntary and community sector in our city. Our sector is needed more than ever, and it is important that we work together, so we can support those who need it most in our city.

2. What is your role within the charity, how long have you been doing it, and what does an average day look like for you?

As CEO there is no such thing as an average day. We provide a wide range of services to people with disabilities, long-term health conditions and carers (with Age UK Plymouth) at our Mannamead Hub. We also provide with Citizens Advice and Shelter, an information and advice hub in our city centre building. My job is to ensure we get the resources and support we need to run our activities and to direct these with the Trustees.

3. What are the main aims of the charity?

To be at the heart of our community, supporting and inspiring people to improve their health and wellbeing. This includes developing and maintaining a range of services, that inform and support people with disabilities and long-term health conditions. We:

  • Put people at the centre of what we do, and how we support them.
  • Operate in our two hubs, in the city centre and Mannamead.
  • Work together with organisations in the voluntary and community, public and private sectors.
  • Will build on our strengths, knowledge and experience, gained over 110 years.

4. Is there a particular project or aim that you’d like to share with people or a focus over the next 12 months?

Improving Lives Plymouth, and other charity’s, will co-design with veterans (all ex-military), their families and carers, a Plymouth Veterans Hub. The hub will support and develop social activity, develop peer support and mentoring, and work with partners to shape better care pathways to employment, mental wellbeing, welfare, housing advice and financial information.

We will also develop activities to tackle isolation and loneliness, in community settings that are veteran and family friendly. Volunteers from the veteran community and their families, and others, will be recruited and trained to give them the necessary skills, knowledge and confidence, to provide group and one to one peer support, and as awareness trainers.

5. What motivated you to do the job/role that you are doing now?

I joined the organisation as the Handicapped Welfare Officer in 1983 and held several posts before becoming CEO in 1997. I spent 8 years in the Merchant Navy as a navigation officer, and I have been proud to serve and steer this great organisation for so many years. Together with a great team of staff and volunteers we have developed an organisation supporting 18,000 people each year.

6. Who else do you work alongside within the charity? Are there any charities that support you, or perhaps a colleague/volunteer that you couldn’t manage without?

I am tempted to say them all as I work with so many inspiring staff and volunteers. However, I would like to highlight Muriel, a volunteer with us for over 30 years and now in her eighties. She was providing information, advice and support until recently, when her own health issues meant she had to ‘retire’. We can now support her!

We have over 80 volunteers, without whom we could not do a fraction of what we do, to support the people of Plymouth.

7. It’s likely that somebody new to the services of the charity is reading this. What would you like to say to them?

We are here for you, when you need us! None of us knows when our health, or family situation, our circumstances, may change. We can give you the support you need to improve your life. We cannot always take away life’s problems, but we can help you over them.

8. What are your specific hopes for the future of Improving Lives Plymouth?

  • That we will be able to maintain and to develop services that meet the needs of Plymothians for the next 110 years, and more.
  • That we will be able to grow our resources and activities, building on our long experience and expertise.
  • That more people will benefit from our support.
  • That more volunteers will come forward to work with us.

9. Thank you so much for taking part in this interview series. Lastly, before we finish - Is there anything else about you, the charity or your job/role that you’d like to let people know about?

Our services are needed more than ever as public services so many have relied on are being cut. We can only continue to help so many with the support of local businesses, Plymouth citizens, and working in partnership with other organisations.

For more information about Improving Lives Plymouth, please visit their website.

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