Richard Heyes – a personal reflection

Richard Heyes 1941 -2020

Many readers will have heard of the untimely death of Richard, from cancer, after a very short illness. However the current lockdown means that we cannot commemorate his contribution to Caversham Good Neighbours (CGN), as we would have wished to do at his funeral. His wife and daughter have written a brief obituary of Richard for the Caversham Bridge. But I would like to add my own recollections of working with him and my personal reflections on the support he gave me and the subsequent Chairman, whilst he was on the committee.

My own involvement with CGN, was a bit chaotic! My wife and I joined CGN soon after we retired. Persuaded by my wife to attend the AGM (bad move !), I was fingered by the late Revd. Richard Kingsbury to join the committee. One year later, very much the new boy, I found myself Chairman, having inadvertently missed the following AGM, as my wife and I were returning from New Zealand. The first committee meeting revealed a shortage of committee members and Richard was one of two volunteers approached, persuaded and co-opted ! We found a rather amateurish organisation, with only two of the committee of more than one year standing. Richard`s background, as I found out later, had been mainly in Social Services.

This experience proved invaluable as we began to put flesh on the bones of our little charity, with the help of Reading Voluntary Action. New legislation required the committee members to become Trustees with legal responsibilities. This led to the development of a Recruitment Policy, masterminded by Richard, and guidelines for the volunteers and officers of the committee. This in turn helped when the Criminal Records Bureau (now the Disclosure and Barring Service) was set up. Richard took responsibility for managing the new certification process as new, and ultimately all, volunteers in contact with vulnerable clients had to be checked.

CGN also lacked a Constitution, which was created with Richard`s help. We then applied to HMRC to be recognised as a small charity. After a little tweaking, the Constitution was approved by HMRC, so that we could reclaim the tax element of donations (in particular the mileage allowances which some volunteers did not claim). This provided funds to finance a number of local outings to Garden Centres for some of our clients. We also organised training in basic first aid, recognition of those suffering from Alzheimer’s, handling those needing walking frames, wheelchairs and other information relevant to the drivers working with vulnerable people.

As we tried to recruit more volunteers, we persuaded two of the local Residents Associations to let us have a brief spot after their AGMs. Richard spoke at the Warren and District Residents Association’s AGM. As a result he met Ken Good of Edge Consulting who offered to build us a website, which later we could update ourselves. This in turn led us to ask them to develop software for us so that we could computerise the booking process, giving the volunteer all the information needed to carry out the trip by email, and the assisting the office in identifying the driver best able to help. A regular newsletter was created to update volunteers, one of which was also circulated to the clients, to inform them of outings they could join. When it was decided to mark CGN’s 50th Anniversary, it was Richard who researched its origins, and discovered a former Chairman who provided a lot of background information. Sadly he died just before the Celebration itself, and so Richard delivered the speech he would have otherwise made.

As time went on we were able to strengthen the committee with a new Secretary, Treasurer, and IT specialist, but throughout my period as Chairman, Richard proved a tower of strength, both because of his professional experience, and his caring nature. The latter was also demonstrated in his role as a driver, as he regularly clocked up a significant number of trips, some on a regular weekly basis. As we worked together, it helped that we shared many interests, including gardening, nature and walking. We also shared a liking for Northumbria, where he and his family had regular family holidays.

I am sure that there are many people in Caversham who would have wished to attend his funeral. Perhaps there will be some way of celebrating his life, once we are able to congregate together once more in person, rather than on Zoom.

Peter J Vallance, former Chairman of Caversham Good Neighbours