Reflections on My Years at Burton YMCA


It seems a long time ago when I was first invited to observe a Board Meeting with a view to becoming a Trustee. It was November 1989 and I was 38 with a young family of 3 daughters.

Little did I realise that I would stay for nearly 32 years but I look back with gratitude at the positive effect it has had on me, John my husband and also my family.

I have enjoyed many things, for example the Paper Caper was an early fund raising example where many people came together to collect old newspapers which we would sell for recycling. Great fun packing up the giant skips – even in the rain. I expect Tom Foster remembers this.

I was also on the interview panel when Paul Laffey applied to join the staff from a London YMCA. That was towards the end of the last century (!) and we made an excellent choice.

I used to be part of a Prayer Team which would pray at Milton House when it was first built and this grew over the years involving other YMCA premises. We joined with Pete Orton and then with Grace.

I remember clearly welcoming the Bishop of Stafford to Reconnect when it opened. I was Chair at the time and it should have been during the time of the previous Chair, Adrian Bader, but the project was very delayed. It was a sheer joy to see it open at last and being used help the homeless.

More recently we welcomed the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to see the work at Reconnect and then he invited us back to Lambeth Palace some months later. So a coach of staff, volunteers and residents went down and enjoyed his hospitality. He gave us Communion in their whitewashed chapel. I found that one of my highlights.

During my journey with the YMCA I have seen how hard it can be living a fulfilled life if you have  had a disadvantaged upbringing. You need significant help and encouragement and that is what we all at the YMCA work together to give. Hearing some of the testimonies at the Celebrations of folk who have been able move on from addiction, homelessness, lack of self-worth etc to getting a job and having their own home makes it all worthwhile. It also reflects on the amazing work accomplished by our staff and volunteers.

I have also learnt about the role of Trustee and what Governance is about including the importance of being fit for purpose, making strategic decisions and not getting involved in operational detail.

The work of Burton YMCA is seeing Christianity in Action. We have a great God who is interested in the minutiae of life and who answers prayer. He brings people into our organisation with the necessary strengths and skills we need and He brings in finance. In fact God is the glue that holds the organisation together. Nothing is too difficult for Him.

For those out there thinking about working or volunteering for the YMCA I say to you ‘Don’t be afraid about getting involved’. The Burton YMCA family will support you in your journey. Looking back I feel I have gained more than I have ever given and I will miss you all greatly when I step down in June.


Words by Jill Lanham

June 2021

More articles