30 years ago, I lost my job and my Father threw me out of the family home. Feeling abandoned, depressed, “switched off”, and with nowhere to go, I moved into my local YMCA in Lincoln.

A few months into my residency, the Housing Support Manager at the YMCA came to see me and I can honestly say that he changed my life. Sometimes, all you need is an intervention; someone to fight your corner and support you. Archie was my intervention. He believed that I could make something of myself. But he told it to me straight. He said “if you want something from life, you need to get up and work for it”. He helped me to get a job volunteering in a charity shop and encouraged me to apply for the Prince’s Trust volunteering course. After several years of volunteering, I was successful in getting a paid position as Assistant Manager. 

I felt part of something at the YMCA but I wanted to do more, so I moved to a bigger YMCA in Nottingham as a volunteer. It was here that I met Clive Yates, the Housing Manager. Clive was always there for me and he became a mentor and a friend, supporting and encouraging me to do what was right.

Clive left YMCA Nottingham in 2002 and I felt like I’d lost a close friend. A few months later, he called when me up and asked if I wanted to come and paint some bedrooms for him and I jumped at the chance. I liked the quietness and calmness of the Sutton suburbs; I stayed for a couple of days and it immediately felt like home.

So in June 2002, I finally moved to Sutton Coldfield, staying and working as a volunteer. To say thank you to Clive, I decided to raise some money to tell the story of my journey. So I completed a 100 mile walk from Sutton Coldfield to Lincoln where my journey had begun. After the fundraising walk, Clive gave me a flat and a part-time job. 

In 2006, I met my wife and we married in 2009. I was successful in securing a full time job as caretaker of the YMCA Sutton Coldfield and after 20 years of living at a YMCA, I finally moved out and bought my first house. I’m now happily married with my own home and an 8 year old son.

If it wasn’t for Archie and the YMCA, I wouldn’t be here today.  And if I hadn’t met Clive, I wouldn’t have found my place and settled down. After all these years, Archie and I are still best of friends. And I’m still working for Clive. I think even when I retire, I’ll come and volunteer (if they’ll have me!)

I’m so very grateful to the YMCA for giving me my life back.

I’m so very grateful to the YMCA for giving me my life back.

Gez, Caretaker