Earlier this year, (July 2015) I had the pleasure of interviewing Alison Sayer, Chief Executive Officer of Halas Homes in Halesowen (www.halashomes.co.uk), for an article in the Dudley CVS Echo newsletter. Alison has been a Dudley CVS Board member since 2013, bringing with her a particular expertise in Human Resources and seemingly boundless energy.
I asked Alison to tell more about Halas Homes, which is akin to lighting the blue touch paper on a firework. “Halas Homes has been caring for people with learning difficulties for over 50 years. Today, it is a 24/7 residential care home for up to 36 adults with learning difficulties,” replied Alison, adding, “the adjacent day centre is open to residents and non-residents and hosts a wide variety of daily activities to aid health and wellbeing. There are also five ‘supported living’ homes for people with a degree of independence,” and by the way, “Halas Homes won a top award last year, picking up the Creative Arts Award in the national 3rd Sector Care Awards 2014. The award was presented by TV personality and campaigner, Esther Rantzen.”
Coming from a background in hospitality, Alison refers to the residents and the people who use the day centre as ‘customers.’ “It’s really important to find out as much as possible about our customers so that we can design services and activities that provide the best possible outcomes for them,” she said.
While Alison is clearly passionate about the work of Halas Homes, she is not so keen to be in the spotlight, preferring instead to conduct a guided tour of the Halas Homes premises and let some of the residents, members of staff and volunteers do the talking.
In the kitchen, we met Ken, who has been a Halas Homes resident for 39 years. While drying dishes, Ken spoke about how much he had enjoyed installing bird boxes in Halesowen earlier this year as part of Halesowen in Bloom. In the day centre, volunteer Glynis Miles was leading an activity called Sing and Sign. The singing part was a boisterous rendition of “I never promised you a rose garden.” The signing part involved two teams of residents and visitors taking part in a highly animated and competitive version of charades.
Outside, the allotment site was awash with produce ready to be picked and prepared in the on-site kitchen. Also outside, Mark Stevens, an ‘invaluable’ Halas Homes volunteer for over four years, was busy cleaning one of the small mini-buses. “I started out as a volunteer here at Halas Homes, then I became a part-time employee, but I still do voluntary time as well because I like to help out in any way I can, such as running errands to pick up prescriptions. But most of all I enjoy helping with activities for our customers,” said Mark.
Alison also walked me the Coffee Cups Café in nearby Thornhill Road, where volunteer helper, Suzy Bury, had been preparing vegetable soup, something she was clearly very proud of. The café, which was acquired by Halas Homes in 2012, plays host to nearly 300 customers each week, providing home-made fayre at cost plus a small profit margin.
So, an interview with Alison Sayer that was supposed to last one hour extended to over three hours and I enjoyed every minute of it. Never once did Alison say “I did” it was always, ”we did.”