Pat Hart - My time volunteering at Abbeyfield Brecon as a Trustee/Chairman

Pat Hart, now a retired trustee, shares his thoughts about his time here at Abbeyfield Brecon.

28 Years ago my job with environmental charity Groundwork brought me to the Brecon area as Trust Development Advisor for Wales and South West England. This had followed 32 years working in manufacturing industry in England and France. I was perhaps Poacher turned Gamekeeper. Several years later I retired from full-time paid employment and found myself in need of something to do.

I was then contacted by Abbeyfield Brecon regarding becoming a volunteer. My recollection is a little uncertain but it might have been Charlotte Chatfield their Chairperson, whom we would have met at Brecon Cathedral. I duly began by working part-time in the office and was asked to become Company Secretary, which I declined, not having a legal background. I was also asked if I wished to have paid employment which I also declined as I wanted the greater freedom of being a volunteer. However I agreed to be Assistant Secretary. I eventually became a Trustee, Shareholder and Executive Committee Member.

Charlotte handed over to Mervyn Jenkins and I became his Vice Chair. Mervyn lived close by and was in the office nearly every day so my role as Vice was not particularly onerous. However we worked closely as a team with the rest of the Executive Committee, other volunteers and Staff. We knew that full occupancy was the ideal target to make sufficient surplus to set aside for possible major expenditure such as a new boiler. We reckoned that having 3 vacancies would put us at break even. We aimed to have Executive Committee members who had specific qualifications, experience and background. In particular we wanted to maintain contact with Brecon Rotary Club, who were partly instrumental in setting us up 25 years ago. To this day we have a Rotarian on our Committee.

Keeping contact with the local Community has always been important to us, such as Brecon Town Council (we recruited an administrator from the Town Clerk’s office), Care Homes at Llanfaes, Talgarth, Llangors and Morgannwyg House.

I have always seen contact with the local Press as important and had regular talks with the Editor at the time. Contact with Abbeyfield Cymru, where I represented Brecon at the all-Wales Abbeyfield organisation, becoming Vice Chairman and occasional meetings with Abbeyfield HQ personnel also figured in my activities.

Residents are our prime concern and our induction process has to be rigorous to be sure that we are the right place for applicants. I have always said that only between 25% and 33% of potential residents come of their own accord , the majority having to be persuaded by family and friends. I have personal experience of this with my Maternal Grandfather, who, having been widowed, refused to enter a care home, until his 3 daughters ganged up on him after a few years and insisted. Once there he said how marvellous it was and why had he not gone there much earlier. Because you refused he was told. Then you should have made me?

So after progressing to be Chairman at Mervyn’s request, which I agreed to if he became Vice, which he did until he passed away in Nevill Hall Hospital. Six or Seven years as Chairman were followed in 2019  by being elected as President. It has been a privilege to have served Abbeyfield Brecon which has given me the opportunity to serve others particularly the elderly of which I am now part. I shall soon be leaving to relocate in London and I wish all concerned with Abbeyfield another 25 years of success.

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