Greg Wilkinson will officially become Chair of Berkshire Youth later this year, after a handover period from the vastly-experienced Jim Leftwich OBE who has been on the Board of Trustees since 1982, and Chair since 1987.
Greg has had a long career in Policing, including 11 years as a Chief Officer with West Yorkshire Police and three years as Director of Professional Development with National Police Training (when he was based at Bramshill in Hampshire).
On retiring from the Police in 2004, Greg ran an Executive Coaching business with his wife in Reading (including consultancy work for the Home Office). From 2004 – 2015, Greg was a Peer Assessor and Examiner with the Institute of Directors, and Selection Panel Chair with the Judicial Appointments Commission from 2008 to 2012.
Jim Lefwich has reflected on his time with Berkshire Youth, a time during which youth work has changed considerably, as has the charity: from name changes and incorporating girls, to a whole new generation of young people to support in very different circumstances.
Jim said: “I moved to Berkshire in 1967 to join Gillette, but then career progression led to me working in London and the USA over the next decade. In 1982, Gillette appointed me as Reading Factory Manager and in the same year I joined the board of Berkshire Association of Boys Clubs (BABC). Five years later, in 1987, I became Chair of BABC, and one of the early tasks was to work with Vic Jerome to merge BABC and his Berkshire Youth Clubs organisation into Berkshire Association of Young People (BAYP), with Vic as the Deputy Chair.
“As Chair, I had an automatic place on the Council of the National Association of Boys Clubs (NABC) – with the then legendary pop idol Frankie Vaughan as President! – and one significant change at this time was the inclusion of girls into the club and title of the organisation – ‘Clubs for Young People’. Some very volatile meetings of Council took place before this change was achieved! I remember one member commenting: ‘I’ve been a member of Boys Clubs for 50 years and we’re not changing now.’ “
Jim’s career flourished, with a move to Sony Music before becoming Managing Director of the operations division of EMI in 1998 in London and then heading back to Reading in 1993 to become CEO of Linpac Metal Packaging. In 1997, Jim was honoured to receive the national Garrett Award from NABC – Clubs for Young People for ‘outstanding contribution to the work of the Association”. At this time, another major change took place in our local government structure, ending Berkshire County Council, which had been a very significant source of support. The Council was replaced by six unitary authorities, changing the funding base forever.
In 1999, David Seward took over as CEO. The previous CEO had been Ray Tapken, who retired after many years serving BABC, of which 12 had been spent so ably alongside Jim. Jim and David have since worked in partnership over the following 23 years.
Jim commented: “That’s much longer than any unbroken partnership I had in the commercial world and has proved to be a really rewarding one.”
In 2000, Jim retired from paid employment and concentrated on supporting various charitable organisations, including becoming Deputy Chairman of NABC – Clubs for Young People in 2001 and International Coordinator for Amani UK, a humanitarian charity supporting work in Kenya. Jim resigned from NABC in 2012 after failing to achieve a merge of NABC and UK Youth, which he’s always regarded as a major lost opportunity which left a greatly weakened national voice for the work with young people.
In 2013, Jim was honoured to receive the OBE from the Queen, principally for his work with Berkshire Youth and with Amani UK.
Through this time, the organisation had progressed from BABC to Berkshire Associated Clubs for Young People (BACYP) and ultimately to Berkshire Youth, and become a charitable company. From 2010, the long period of austerity also began, along with the progressive erosion of government support both nationally and locally.
In 2017, Jim stepped down as Chair and assumed the role of Deputy, supporting Rev. Lady Denise Brown as Chair. However, when Denise resigned in 2019, Jim agreed to resume the Chair role, allowing Roger Smee our President and David to focus on the redevelopment of Waterside Centre, Newbury.
With Waterside Centre now reopened and thriving, Jim has decided that now is the right time to fully retire from Berkshire Youth and to focus more on his local community in Buckinghamshire, where he has now lived for 35 years.
Berkshire Youth Patron, HM Lord-Lieutenant of the Royal County of Berkshire, James Puxley, commented: “I would like to take this opportunity to give my sincere thanks to Jim for his outstanding commitment to our charity over the past 40 years. He has undoubtedly seen huge changes, but his dedication and positivity has never wavered. I wish Jim well as he has more time to spend with Edna, his wife of 60 years, two children and four grandchildren, and on his hobbies.
“I would like to reassure everyone that Berkshire Youth will continue seamlessly, with a strong Board of Trustees and dedicated staff team. I am thrilled to introduce you to our Chair Designate, Greg Wilkinson.”
Greg commented: “I relish the opportunity to work with Berkshire Youth and hope to support the excellent work that the team undertake and to follow in Jim’s significant footsteps. My mantra in Rotary has been that ‘every child has potential but only some have the opportunity to develop it’. I hope that my experience and local connections will provide some added value to the great work that Berkshire Youth undertakes.”
Berkshire Youth President, Roger Smee MBE (who joined the Berkshire Youth board in 1981), commented: “I too am delighted to welcome Greg to the team. He brings with him a wealth of varied experiences, and will speak with authority on the preventative nature of youth work and links to crime. He joins Berkshire Youth at a transitional and exciting time, as we demonstrate what we can achieve when local government, charities and other stakeholders work with us to invest in local young people and their futures. This is most ably demonstrated by our work at our new Waterside Newbury premises.
“I too would like to add my deepest thanks to Jim for all that he has done to bring us to this point. He is a true gentleman who has been dedicated to youth work. He has been a much valued colleague and chairman of Berkshire Youth who will be missed by all of us who worked with him.”
Berkshire Youth CEO, David Seward, added: “I would like to add my heartfelt thanks to Jim for all he has done for our charity. He has worked tirelessly with me to be the very best we can be for local young people. I wish him all the best for his well-earned retirement. I would also like to extend a very warm welcome to Greg, who I have no doubt will be an excellent new Chair for Berkshire Youth.”