So here it is, our third blog instalment focusing on ‘Our People’, introducing the stories of colleagues and contacts who work within our portfolio of unique and unusual venues, and the work they do outside of their day job in order to raise money for a good cause.

This month we spoke with Charlie Metcalfe, Director of Sales at Alexandra House, part of The Venues Collection, who has raised just shy of £50k for a Swindon-based charity. So we wanted to know: what’s motivated her to organise charity balls and gala dinners that have raised such a show-stopping figure?

“The charity I personally and professionally support is Threshold Housing: . ‘Threshold is a local independent charity which provides short, medium and long term accommodation to single homeless people in Swindon.

I first became aware of this charity back in 2004, when a close family member became homeless. Although this was a decision they had made due to substance abuse and refusing the assistance of the family, it was an extremely difficult time for all involved.

In 2011 I started working for a hotel in my home town of Swindon and became aware that they cooked turkeys on Christmas Day for Threshold’s hostel, which, my family member had been fortunate to experience. I spoke to my family member who said how amazing it was and what a difference it made to those in the hostel on such an emotional day. Most of them separated from their own families not only due to substance abuse but also because of mental health issues, or simply falling on hard times. This opportunity meant they could all eat a meal together in the warmth of the hostel, creating their own family and community for that day, helping to forget momentarily what it is actually like on the streets.

This really hit home hard. Yes, my family member had segregated herself from our family, but now she was going through a ‘recovery’ and able to express how vital it is for charities like this to exist for those people who have no one.

At that point I made it my mission to do even more. My General Manager and I would attend the Soup Kitchen and just talk to those coming to get food. We were honestly amazed by the interaction we received. We spoke to one man who had been a director for a Bingo company. He had unfortunately separated from his wife, his parents had died many years ago and he hadn’t had any children. In a storm a tree fell through the roof of the bingo hall and the building was deemed irreparable, needing to be bull dozed. He lost his livelihood and within two months he was homeless. He came to Swindon as he was told about all the “great employment opportunities”. He fell into the trap of having no fixed address, no money to place a deposit or pay the first month’s rent. This meant he couldn’t gain employment, nor was he a priority for benefits as he had no dependents. So that was that. He had spent 3 years at that stage living on the streets. He had no abuse problems, no mental health issues, just a guy who had fallen on hard times.

I decided to work with Threshold Housing to see what I could possibly help with. Funding is always an issue but what is equally needed is the support to help these people to get back into work. So I decided to host a charity ball. Working with my local network, with 6 weeks’ notice we had a ball happening. It was a whirlwind but such an amazing night. I asked for either a raffle or auction donation from those attending. A local recruitment agency helped greatly and not only gave a fantastic gift for the goodie bags but also donated their time to help with CV writing and interview skills. A local beautician went out to her suppliers and gained some fantastic prizes to auction on the night. We also had a local radio host to compare our auction.

In that one evening with the raffle, auction and gifts in kind we raised £45k. I couldn’t actually believe it. There were a lot of happy tears amongst my family too!

Charlie Metcalfe at Threshold Charity Ball Threshold Charity Ball

Soon after, my career led me to unfortunately move outside of Swindon, but I still continued to do what I could. The hotel where I was working had a bedroom refurbishment (two, in fact, within 6 months due to change of ownership) and I was able to donate all the quilts, pillows and unused branded toiletries to Threshold.

Last year, on hearing that I was back working in Swindon, Threshold’s new Business Manager got in touch. We hosted a smaller gala dinner for 50 people and raised an honourable £4.5k on the night.

There have also been some members of the public, who like me have experienced a loved one being homeless and have set up groups on Facebook where volunteers donate hot meals on a daily basis, go out in groups to deliver and also where the homeless can give their requests in and the organisers post for things such as clothing, toiletries, sleeping bags etc. and I am involved in this side too.

And now I am here at Alexandra House where I learnt that a couple of members of the team were involved in the annual sleep out last December. For 2019 we have already planned a charity ball which we will be hosting in February to raise more money for Threshold.

Sadly for me & my family, our family member is yet again homeless. She leaves behind three young children who are now cared for by the family. Unfortunately her substance abuse is now in its 20th year. Her substance abuse is directly linked to her mental health issues and we go to bed every night hoping and praying that she is ok, she is still alive and that someday she will find the strength within herself to realise that there is help available to her. In the meantime, I will continue to do everything I can, not only for her children but also for this amazing charity who do so much to help and support the vulnerable people and to help guide them into permanent housing and employment.

There are 1 million homeless in the UK and the population lies at 61.3 million. Therefore it is around 1.66% of the population. Homelessness can and does happen to people from all walks of life.

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