22 Years with the YMCA, Carol Plenty – Adult Services Manager

What an incredible journey it has been over the past 22 years.

I started at the YMCA in August 1999 after having my son and had heard through a friend Sue Adams who worked at YMCA and still does (yes there are some people who are longer service than me) were advertising for a part-time Assistant Administrator.  I had been a PA for many years and this sounded perfect for this time of my life.  The Old Glasshouse was the hub of Mendip YMCA at the time and consisted of the CEO, Support and Advice Workers, Accommodation Recruitment Officer, Youth Workers and Administration.  Looking back at the small team and now over 250 staff is unbelievable and shows the huge need for the important work that we carry out and how well respected the YMCA is.

I had always worked for large companies and to come and work for a charity was such a wonderful eye opener, helping people and knowing you were making a difference was amazing.

When the Accommodation Recruitment Officer went on maternity leave I was offered some extra hours for this post and felt I had come into my own.  My role was to work with private landlords to encourage them to rent their properties to our clients and recruit host families for short-term respite whilst YMCA carried out some mediation.  This was called MEAG and even now some people still ask if it around, this became Host families.  Mendip District Council funded my post and still do to this day, I continue to work with private landlords and also offer a bond scheme, both are funded by Mendip District Council.

When the post became permanent, I decided to take on the role but realised I would need housing knowledge. YMCA assisted me to access a qualification which was a Diploma in Tenancies and Security of Tenure.  The course was very informative and I learnt a great deal about housing law.  This has assisted me over the years to support Landlords and Tenants with their properties and tenancies and proved to be invaluable.

Over the years so much growth has happened but I have very fond memories working with Karen Deverell our then Accommodation Manager who went on to become our wonderful CEO. We worked together to start our first supported housing project from scratch in Frome which became the Foyer.  My task was to get enough sponsorship to furnish every room to a good standard which was such fun.  Anyone who knows me will now realise where I learnt how to ask for things.

The role became busier over the years and YMCA was successful in bidding through Crisis for a Private Rented Sector Worker.  This meant YMCA could offer support to Landlords through myself and tenancy support through the new post.  This proved to be invaluable and over the years YMCA has housed so many people through these schemes and still continue to do so.

With the team growing and now including extra funding from Mendip District Council for a Tenancy Accreditation Worker, YMCA funded me to acquire a Level 4 in Leadership and Management.  With the team growing, it was important I knew how to look after and grow my staff team.  Again, the course proved to be invaluable in my progression and along with all the added training YMCA offers, we are as staff truly blessed.

Over the years the team has grown and grown and I was over the moon when YMCA was able to provide supported housing for adults.  The Adults Team was given Spencer House in Wells and has been key to supporting and moving adults on in the last 4-5 years.  It was so exciting to start a project from scratch and the success of the project speaks volumes.  Also added to the team and schemes is Grace Harris House which is a mix of adults, P2i and temporary accommodation for Mendip District Council.  Again, as with Spencer House the success of moving people on to their own place has been amazing.  YMCA also secured funding for another Tenancy Accreditation Worker specifically for Homefinder, so the team continues to grow in adults.  I am very proud of my wonderful team, I never in a million years expected to be where I am now and this is down to YMCA’s faith in me and the team around me.

I have too many stories to tell but one that sticks in my mind was waiting to hear if we had secured the contract for P2i, this was huge to YMCA and hours and hours of work.  It was snowing and when we heard we were successful, we ventured to The City Arms to celebrate and decided this would be a good place if we were snowed in.  I think there were a few headaches the next day.

I have loved my time at YMCA, so many happy memories and met some amazing people.  Every person we help makes it all worthwhile.  It is hard work that we do but where would our young people and adults be without us.  I am so proud to be part of YMCA and know how respected we are by our partners and the public!

My closest friends and family say if I was a stick of rock the middle would read YMCA – I cannot argue with that.  I hope to be here until I retire which is only a few years but I am already thinking if I retire to my caravan in Weymouth I can do relief in Yeovil.

Thank you YMCA – it has been wonderful!