President – Michael Coker MBE
Mr Coker was born in Coventry in 1935. He trained as a solicitor in Leamington Spa and was admitted to the Law Society in 1958. He is a former senior partner and now a Consultant with Field Overell Solicitors who have offices in Leamington and Coventry.
At Warwick District Council, he is Deputy Leader of the Council, Chair of the Executive and a member of the Employment Committee. He is a former Chairman of the District Council, a post he held in 1984 – 1985. On 1st January 1991, he was appointed HM Coroner for Warwickshire, a position that saw Mr Coker investigate the cause and circumstances of a number of high profile deaths in the county. He is also a member of Kenilworth Town Council and was Mayor of Kenilworth between 1989 – 1990 and 2006 – 2007. He is also Clerk of the Warwickshire Reformatory School Trust and his old school’s bursary fund, the Ratcliffian Association Fund.
Chairman – Cheryll Rawbone
Cheryll is the longest standing member of the Project having been secretary since its inception in 1986.
Whilst Cheryll received her initial insurance training with Avon Insurance she quickly moved on to an independent International Insurance Broker, as she preferred the face to face contact and interaction with clients. Cheryll was one of the founding Directors of Halkett Associates, a Corporate Insurance Broker specialising in Life Science and Technology risks, including privately owned, publically listed and international companies. Halkett’s were sold to Oval Insurance Broking in 2004, then in early 2014 Oval was then sold to Arthur J Gallagher a US listed family run international insurance broker, which is now one of the top 3 brokers in the UK. Cheryll still heads up their Coventry office, as Managing Director. She has 25 years experience in Sales, Service and Risk Management for both Commercial UK and International Risk Insurance. Cheryll is professionally qualified as an ACII and Chartered Insurance Practitioner. Having previously been Secretary of the Friendship Project for 25 years, Cheryll became Chairman of the Friendship Project in 2013. Her interests in addition to disadvantaged children are: food, travel, rugby and cricket, by default. Cheryll is married with two daughters.
Vice Chairman & Safeguarding Officer – John Hancock
John Hancock has been connected with the Project since 1990. He became Chair in 2004 following his retirement from the teaching profession. John was Head teacher of an urban comprehensive school for 17 years and brings to the Project extensive experience of working with disadvantaged youngsters and their families. He acts as Child Protection Officer for the Project and is a member of the Strategic and Communications sub-group of the Warwickshire Safeguarding Children Board. Married to Kath, he has 3 grown up children, a dog, cat and 2 chickens. His interests include sport, politics and fell-walking.
Honorary Secretary & Trustee – Michelle Machin
Michelle is experienced in both administration and HR, working full time as Business Support Executive with Hampton Resourcing. In addition to payroll and general office operations, she is also responsible for updating company manuals and procedures. Michelle started out in the hospitality sector following her FDA in Event Management and roles included front of house, Cluster Administrator and Team Leader. Currently she is studying for additional HR qualifications. Away from work she is professional singer, and also organises charity events via her brand – Benevolent Events.
Webmaster (& Trustee) – Chris Buck email@example.com
I began working with the project in 2009 when I was invited by the Chairman to be the Project’s Treasurer. After overhauling the expenses system and introducing on-line banking, I was happy to hand over the reigns to in March 2011. Having overseen the design and implementation of the new Friendship Project branding, I am now responsible for the website and all things ‘on-line’.
Trustee – Rachael Escott
Rachael is Sales & Marketing Manager for the Co-operative Childcare and is responsible for marketing innovation and delivery to gain new customers and retain existing customers. Rachael has a background in events management and has recently joined the Friendship Project as a Trustee with specific responsibility to providing event support and delivery. Rachael has worked alongside the Friendship Project for over a year, fundraising and organising the Friendship Projects children’s Christmas Party and is now looking forward to working on other events the Friendship Project host, alongside a team of great volunteers!
Fundraiser & Trustee – Richard Barrett
Richard is a recently retired management consultant and a qualified accountant. He is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, who spent most of his career providing financial management and process improvement consultancy to a wide range of organisations from family businesses to large corporates, charities and Government bodies. For many years Richard worked for Coopers & Lybrand and PwC, prior to establishing his own consultancy business in 2003.
Richard recently joined the Friendship Project as a Trustee to lead our trust and foundation grant fund raising. He is also a Trustee of the Shakespeare Hospice and USPG, a long-established mission agency of the Anglican Church. In addition, Richard is actively involved with his local church, enjoys cycling, walking, gardening and spending time with his family. Richard is married and has two daughters and one granddaughter.
Co-Opted as Older Friend Representative – Jon Gibbons
I was born in Rugby and lived just outside of the town until I moved to Hillmorton in 2009. I have worked in the town from 1991 up until 2017 when I moved to a new job in Kenilworth with the same Electrical Wholesale company, City Electrical Factors Ltd. I first became aware of the Friendship Project in early 2017 after I read an article in the local press about the charity and its urgent need for volunteers finally becoming an Older Friend in September 2017. Even though I have only been involved for a short time I have been immensely impressed with all the people that are involved, from the Trustees to all the volunteers that I have met so far and their undoubted commitment to the children that we try to help. In my new capacity I hope to meet many more of you and look forward to hearing your ideas as to how you feel things could be improved for all of us undertaking this valuable role.
Trustee – Compliance QA and Accreditation Brief – Suzee Laxton
On joining the Friendship Project in November 2018, Suzee brings 13 years of wide-ranging experience within the voluntary sector with her. This experience has covered both the frontline service delivery for charities as well as a wealth of experience in managing behind-the-scenes operations, including as the West Midlands Regional Marketing Officer for Samaritans. On a professional level, Suzee is currently working within Local Government but has predominantly spent her career working within the private sector. These roles have tended to focus on operational and project management and, luckily for Suzee who tends to be a bit of a geek with these things, these have been within the digital/tech field.
Trustee – Honorary Treasurer – Ken Smith
I have recently retired from the post as Financial Director of an engineering company in Milton Keynes after 15 years. Prior to this I worked for Rothmans International for 22 years in a number of financial and management roles. Married to Heather and have two sons, William 36 and Samuel 39, and Boris the cocker spaniel 9 !
Project Administrator – Karen Hoy
I have a background in Administration and most recently spent 15 years as a PA for the directors of at IT Company. Since having children, I know it sounds like a cliché (!), I decided that I wanted to do something rewarding and that would ‘give something back’. I feel that the Friendship Project is exactly that, and I am very lucky to work for such a wonderful charity and to see first hand the difference that it can make to a child’s life.
Rugby & District Area Coordinator – Kelly Furness
Over 22 years ago when I was 18 I was an Older Friend for the Friendship Project before I went to University to study Social Work. The experience was an invaluable introduction to working with vulnerable children and social care. I have worked as a social worker for the last 18 years in both children and adults services and most recently in the recruitment, training and assessment of prospective foster carers. My overwhelming desire in all of my work has been to make a difference to the service users I am working with.
I have recently made some life changes and the opportunity of working to help and support vulnerable children as an area coordinator is another good opportunity to make a difference and I am excited to join the project and continue to develop the project in the Rugby area. I still have some very positive memories of the time I was an older friend and feel that this experience will help me to support and develop friendships. I will also be working as an independent social worker in the fostering sector.
In my spare time I enjoy going to spin classes and swimming, gardening, visiting national trust properties and caring for my godchildren.
Nuneaton, Bedworth & North Warwickshire Area Coordinator – Viv Kelsey
I live in North Warwickshire and have had a variety of roles including Emergency Control Room for the Fire Service, teaching Firefighters to drive the Fire Engines to emergencies, teaching English overseas in China and have been an Estate Agent! More recently I have trained as a therapeutic counsellor and worked in different charities covering quite a lot of areas, including Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence. I also have a small private practice and do some administrative work for another Charity in Coventry. So quite a busy work life, I feel that the work with the Friendship Project is a very valuable service and something close to my heart. I am a single parent and feel that there is a lot of stigma around parenting, so when I am not working I enjoy nothing better than spending time with my daughter. We share a passion of horses and her dream is to one day ride in the Olympics. Well, as that fabulous film ‘The Greatest Showman’ tells us, ’cause every night I lie in bed, the brightest colours fill my head, a million dreams are keeping me awake, I think of what the world could be, a vision of the one I see, a million dreams is all its gonna take, a million dreams for the world we’re gonna make’.
North Warwickshire DBS & Briefing Officer – Judy Sims
I have been with the Friendship Project since early 2009, firstly as an Older Friend and then in 2010 was privileged to be asked to be the CRB and Briefing Officer for North Warwickshire. I was a Team Leader for 15 years with Barclays Bank and gained vast experience in dealing with people and customers. I am now retired and divorced with two children and one grandson, (who has the ability to run aimlessly with grandma in tow)! I have gained enormously from being an Older Friend. I can now order a meal at McDonalds without asking for a menu and my driving is improving as my younger friend constantly reminds me that amber on traffic lights means I have to be prepared to stop! The experience has been so rewarding on a personal level and my younger friend has grown in confidence as she has experienced so many different things. As Briefing Officer, my role entails visiting people in their homes and discussing with the potential volunteer their expectations and also assessing their suitability for the role. The Friendship Project is a very worthwhile charity, with children being at the centre of everything that they do. Many people working voluntarily giving their own time for the benefit of a child, who for whatever reason, is not able to experience what most of us take for granted.
South Warwickshire Coordinator (Warwick, Leamington Spa and Kenilworth) – Fiona Roche
I started off working life as a Caterer which gave me a great opportunity to travel and see the world. After completing an HND in Hotel and Catering Management, I worked at Harrods as an Assistant Manager and moved around their 16 restaurants. I then spent a year using some of my secretarial training at the Lawn Tennis Association, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Tim and Greg! I moved to Leamington 15 years ago and have three children. While they were growing up, I specialised in making celebration cakes. I now coach at Leamington Lawn Tennis club, which has given me some valuable experience in dealing with a broad spectrum of children. I am really looking forward to my new role as Area Co-ordinator and hope that I will be able to contribute to putting a smile on these children’s faces.
Area Coordinator (Stratford, Shipston and Alcester) – Heather Shipley
Previously to joining the Friendship Project, I travelled in Europe, the US, Asia and Australia, worked in Marketing Management and moved to the Midlands from the South. My experience of working at a local primary school for 10 years has helped immensely in my new role. This work included working with disadvantaged children, parents, carers and professional services. I also run my own counselling private practice.
DBS Manager and Operations Team Chairman – Pauline Higginbottom
I was born in Leamington and trained as a nurse. Once I was married, we moved away and lived in lots of different places due to my husband’s work. I returned to nursing after a 10 year break and worked as a hospice nurse. We retired to Warwick in 2007. I started working for the Friendship Project in 2008, initially as Co-ordinator for Stratford and Southam and then for the whole of South Warwickshire. I then switched to be DBS Manager and Chair of Operations Team. I have two daughters and six grandchildren.