Dame Maureen Thomas is a founding member and trustee of the Foundation, an organisation she has continued to lead and support for 15 years. In March 2015 the Foundation changed its name from Hilton in the Community Foundation to DM Thomas Foundation for Young People, to enable further growth of the Foundation. It was a fitting recognition of Dame Maureen’s committed and unwavering support, to reflect her name in the new title.
Dame Maureen, could you tell us about how the decision to start the Foundation come about?
Anthony Harris, the CEO of the then Hilton UK, decided to form a Foundation in 2000 as an expression of Hilton’s commitment to the local communities it served. I was invited by Rudi Jagersbacher to become a founding trustee because I’ve always been an active supporter of many charities and causes. I agreed, and formed part of a board, which also included Rudi. Anthony very sadly passed away in 2004 and a memorial fund was established by the Foundation in his name. We raised £49,000 in Anthony’s memory, which was given to Treloar’s College in Hampshire, a specialist college for young people with physical disabilities from all over the UK and overseas. The college was a cause particularly close to Anthony’s heart and the fund was a fitting tribute from the Foundation he was so proud to have started. His legacy continues as the Foundation grows in strength day by day.
Is the Foundation different to how it was when you first began?
Whilst the Foundation has grown and developed in many ways we have the same aim as when we started all those years ago: to transform the lives of young people and help them to achieve their potential. We’ve had different ways of achieving this, for example for a period of 5 years we ran a disaster relief fund from which we donated over £218,000 to support relief teams such as those working on the aftermath of the South Asian tsunami in 2004. Thanks to everyone’s hard work and generosity, today we are raising and awarding more money than ever, making 487 grants amounting to £1,2 million in 2015.
You chair the Foundation’s Grants Committee as well as being a founding Trustee. What do you most enjoy about being a committee member?
It gives me a huge amount of satisfaction and pleasure to visit our grantees to see where the money will be used. I take very seriously our responsibility to our supporters so that the funds that are donated are used wisely. I work particularly on our London Foundation Ball, which raises large sums of money for good causes. As you can imagine this takes an awful lot of organisation. I am fortunate enough to be supported by a fantastic committee which enables us to achieve so much.
Do you have any favourite moments from working with the Foundation over the past 15 years?
One of the most enjoyable aspects of working with the Foundation is the interaction I have with so many inspirational people. Our incredible supporters and volunteers from across Europe, our Board of Trustees who work so hard to guide the direction of the Foundation, the dedicated Foundation team in the office as well as our supportive Chairman Simon Vincent and our President Ian Carter, all come together to form a fantastic team, which I am so proud to be a part of. Thanks to everyone’s generosity, commitment and passion we are able to transform the lives of so many young people.
The Foundation has always been about the young people that we help and our supporters. They make it all happen. We have seen a period of change and consolidation, the work of the Foundation continues and our impact goes from strength to strength. A new partnership with Hilton Worldwide enables us to continue our work with the corporate responsibility team. As we see reflected in Highlights, our monthly newsletter, many hotels are volunteering their help and support so we are able to continue our work with young people. We also work with other companies to facilitate their community engagement, drawing on our 15 years of experience. Our ultimate aim is to transform the lives of even more young people.
Has the Foundation made any achievements that you are particularly proud of?
There have been so many, both events that we’ve held and grants that we have awarded. I attended the launch of a new mobile game based on our popular range of novelty ducks. We held the launch at the Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children in Camden, one of our many charity partners. It was wonderful, as always, to see our funding in action. To see the children so excited with the ducks and for them to play the game was a delight. I have been fortunate to chair the Grants Committee and through this I have been blessed to work with some amazing individuals. They bring their knowledge and expertise and they provide such useful insights. By helping us to assess the charities they ensure that we have the biggest impact with our work as possible. They also make it a lot of fun. Working with Fred Sirieix and Chris Galvin to create Galvin’s Chance, our into-work programme for young people, is a particularly proud achievement for me. They have such passion and imaginative ideas and their commitment is unquestionable. I’m thrilled that Chris has recently agreed to be our Patron.
And finally can we ask how would you like to see the Foundation’s work develop over the next 5 years?
I’d like to see the Foundation continue to grow and build on the relationships that we have with our key supporters and fundraisers over the last 15 years. They have been at the heart of our success. I’d also like to see the Foundation build new partnerships, such as those we are currently developing with companies like Galvin’s Restaurants, Les Mills UK and Eastman Chemical Company. I am never ceased to be amazed by the kindness and generosity of people. The fact that the Foundation is going from strength to strength is a testament to the dedication and hard work of so many volunteers and fundraisers. I would like to thank everyone who continues to support us: with your help we have changed the lives of so many disadvantaged young people and children, and will continue to do so for many years to come.