Read about our first in-person event since 2019
Friday 10th February 2023 marked a very special date in Avalon’s calendar – we held our first in-person conference since 2019, and we’re pleased to say it was worth the wait!
The day was momentous for more than one reason, with this being our retiring CEO Larry Hollando’s final conference, as he hands over the leadership of our Charity to Emma Williams this month.
Larry opened the event in moving and motivational fashion, by talking us through the many highlights of his decade-long tenure, including the celebrations for our 20th and 25th anniversaries, opening new offices and developing new services, and growing our charity by almost 50%, enabling us to deliver new and important services to improve people’s lives in our communities. Larry finished with a passionate reminder to all staff about the importance of who we are, what we do and to be bold and believe in ourselves. Larry handed over to Emma who spoke about how excited she is to take on the role of CEO, and build on the strong foundation of Avalon to create more new services and expand our charity in the coming years.
Mike Padgham, Chair of the Independent Care Group (ICG) was up next, and gave the national social care picture in real terms, helping us all to understand where the challenges lie both now and in the future, and that to overcome these challenges we, as a sector, need to fight for what we believe in so that we can continue to deliver impactful services. Mike has always been a great ally to Avalon, and continues to be a powerful advocate for our sector; we felt very fortunate to have him with us.
Our own Helen Ward was next, talking us through the importance of mental wellbeing, and showing us simple yet crucial ways we can all take better care of ourselves, while also looking out for those around us, whether that be colleagues, customers, friends or family. The session finished with a great interactive session, with attendees creating their own top 10 ways to enhance mental wellbeing in innovative ways.
In a day packed with standout moments, one of the very best came next, with Chris Tait and Tony Hart from NAPPI UK presenting a session called My Green Life. Tony is someone who spent several years in the care system himself, and speaks openly about his own behaviours, which many would deem too challenging to be able to live independently. Tony required 2:1 support and was engaging in activities that were a danger to his health, safety and the wellbeing of others. But through active, positive behavior support, Tony has transformed himself, and has gone from a lifestyle deemed ‘red’ (which means negative) to all ‘green’ (positive) and is now an employed member of staff with NAPPI UK as a Co-Production Team member, has his own flat which he shares with his girlfriend, and lives independently the vast majority of the time with a little support as required. The session was truly inspirational and Tony and Chris stayed for a few hours to talk with delegates and answer questions. Thanks so much guys!
Following lunch, we held our annual Avalon Awards – where we honour staff members, Shared Lives carers, teams and customers for achievements they have made across the last year. We played videos with those who had nominated discussing the reasons nominees deserved recognition. It’s fair to say there were lots of tissues being passed around, as we heard some stories of dedication and care that go far beyond what you would expect, even in a sector so full of outstanding efforts as ours.
The full list of winners are as follows:
Non-operational employee of the year: Jo Heywood
Operational employee of the year: Tracy McGaw
Operational team of the year: Northallerton Ops Team
Shared Lives carer of the year: Jean Anderson
Support Worker of the year: Kathryn Jordan and Donna Hazlewood
Customer Personal Achievement Award: Patrick Frost
The day finished on another emotional note, as our Chair of Trustees, Stephen Fox, delivered a speech thanking Larry for all his work to steer our charity over the last 10 years. Larry was presented with some special gifts from our customers, and a further speech was given by our customer Denise Ross, who was part of the original interview panel when Larry applied for his job in 2013.
It was a brilliant conference, and as so many people remarked, great to see so many people together again in one room after years of virtual events and computer meetings. We can’t wait for the next one!