Thursday, 17 June 2021

YMCA trustee retires after 35 years

A TRUSTEE of Henley YMCA has retired after 35 years of service.

A TRUSTEE of Henley YMCA has retired after 35 years of service.

Maureen Lawson, 78, joined the charity in 1976 and as general secretary ran children’s work and youth clubs as well as organising sports, games and weekly clubs for senior citizens, all voluntarily.

She retired from this position in 2000 before taking a voluntary role as a trustee.

Mrs Lawson, of King’s Close, Henley, said: “It was a lot of fun in the old days when it was all voluntary.

“It was very naive and simple in those days but now there are so many rules and regulations you’ve got to be an expert in your field to run a place like that. When I was working there, I found that the people I could really rely on always came from the churches.”

She worked for South Oxfordshire District Council’s youth service as secretary before joining the YMCA board, where she ran the youth, ladies’ and men’s clubs.

She said: “I used to say ‘I’m just a typist’ but I ended up running youth clubs and all sorts of things.

“On a really good summer’s evening we would have rounders games outside with about 70 children.”

Mrs Lawson realised her “dream” of offering young people affordable housing and modern sports facilities in 2000 when 30 flats for young people were built in Lawson Road.

The development was named after her and her late husband David, a former YMCA chairman. She said: “All we wanted was to see the site develop and have homes for young people.

“We wanted to do it because there’s a tremendous need for housing for young people in Henley.

“We organised a study in colleges and found there were people sleeping on friends’ floors.

“There’s a hidden need. Henley looks like a very affluent place but there’s an awful lot of deprivation if you scratch below the surface.”

Mrs Lawson, who was presented with a gift by members of the charity at its annual meeting, said: “I still meet people today who say they were in my youth club.”

YMCA president George Constantinidi thanked her, particularly for her significant role in seeing the flats built.

A number of former youth club members at the meeting talked about how the charity had helped them. Olivia Abreu, a former YMCA resident, said she was able to use her youth work training to help her find work at a summer camp in America.

Matt Brown, another resident, said he had been able to use his skills in helping the YMCA’s learning disability football team to set up a men’s football team at AFC Henley playing in the Reading Sunday League.

The meeting, which was attended by Deputy Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak and town councillor Dieter Hinke, also recognised the achievements of individuals.

Chris Williams, manager of Henley YMCA Football Club, received an engraved tankard for his service.

The YMCA was founded in 1857 and is a charitable company that provides a range of facilities and activities for the community.

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