Karen’s work recognised in New Year honours

Karen Deverell, the former chief executive of the YMCA in Mendip and South Somerset, has been awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list.

Karen, who lives in Wells and is pictured above, received her honour for services to young people in the county.

She worked for the YMCA in Mendip for more than 25 years, including 17 years as the chief executive.

“I left the YMCA 18 months ago as I needed a change,” said Karen. “I felt it was the right time for me to do less.  I became a Foster Carer for Somerset County Council and a volunteer with Wells Coronavirus Network.

“I am very grateful to receive this honour, but I hope that all staff I worked with over my 25 years at the YMCA will feel that it is also testament to all we achieved together.

“I started working at the YMCA in my 20s as a support worker, and I worked my way up to be chief executive, where my team helped with a number of really important schemes, particularly with housing for young people.

“I am so pleased with what we achieved – teens are not necessarily the first thing people think of to help as a cause, as they are not cute or cuddly. But their welfare is so important.

“We pushed hard for an improvement in youth services and facilities, and I am chuffed this has been recognised.

“It is hard work leading a charity, it has all the pressures of any other business but also the importance of running the charity with integrity and ensuring that beneficiaries are kept at the heart of everything.  Sticking to what you are good at and what fits your charitable aims is key, not chasing the money, but focusing on what you know you do well and striving to innovate and improve that work.

“We developed a range of services with the aim of preventing homelessness which included family mediation, emergency housing, Resettlement support and supported housing.  

“Although people would be impressed by large building projects like Street Foyer, the key to the success of YMCA Mendip & South Somerset was the standard of the face-to-face work with young people.  Those frontline staff were working in often challenging situations trying to help a young person feel safe and secure so that they could settle and start to think about a more positive future.