News: Friends Day: Looking Back and Looking Forward

Rosa Branson's painting of The Connection at St Martin's

This year’s Friends Day on Saturday 30 June offered a wonderful opportunity for Friends and supporters of The Connection at St Martin’s to look back on a very successful year, and forward to exciting possibilities in the year to come.

In 2017-18, the Friends made donations totalling £276,000 to support The Connection’s vital work, and this included a 22% increase on the previous year in income raised through subscriptions, donations and fundraising events. Those present were also able to celebrate the announcement that the recent Friends’ Spring Appeal had reached its target of £25,000 in donations specifically given to fund The Connection’s Laundry and Showering service for the current year. The Chair, Charles Woodd, and other members of the Committee, explained how every priority put forward at the previous year’s meeting had been successfully implemented. You can download a copy of the Friends’ Annual Review here. Committee member Emily Cecil-Dennett highlighted the way in which she and her volunteer Social Media Team had been able to expand the Friends’ presence on social media, and encouraged all to make links through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Charles Woodd then thanked everyone – Friends, other donors, volunteers and Committee members – for contributing to such a successful year.

The CEO of The Connection, Pam Orchard, explained how the organisation was responding to the continuing rise in homelessness by refocusing its services in ways that prioritise ‘co-production’, that is involving clients in every aspect of the service, and a ‘strengths-based approach’, which recognises that everyone who comes into the building has strengths, skills, things they are good at, as well as issues to tackle. Pam’s talk was followed by a presentation by Scott Phipps and Sujhayini Akbar-Khan, from the Advice and Housing Team, explaining how their team set about the immensely challenging task of finding possible housing options for clients.

The Secretary, Nigel Thorpe, announced the launch of the 2018 Connection Coffee Morning and encouraged all Friends and supporters to consider organising a Coffee Morning or Tea Party around the date of World Homeless Day – 10 October – to raise funds for the Friends. Our target is for there to be at least 25 events around the country, and it was noted that they could be run in partnership with a local homelessness charity.

Charles Woodd also announced that the Committee had decided to make a posthumous award for the 2018 Guy Mason Award to Valerie Margaret Farbridge. Val Farbrige had volunteered at the St Martin’s Social Care Unit, one of the precursors of The Connection, for 20 years in the 1980s and 1990s. When she died in 2014, she left an amazingly generous legacy of £373,000 to the Friends. Her generosity underlines the huge difference that legacies can make in underpinning the support that the Friends can give to the work of The Connection.