End of an era
Late afternoon on a Tuesday is usually quiet at Ballarat Community Health in Lucas, with the last few clients leaving and possibly a yoga class in session. This particular Tuesday, however, was a little more festive. Possibly one of the largest Annual General Meetings in United Way Ballarat and The Ballarat Foundation’s histories saw around 60 people – board members past and present, community partners, volunteers, donors and staff – come together to farewell Geoff Sharp, CEO for the past 9 years along with outgoing Board Chair Alex Campbell, Deputy Chair Andrew Robson and Director Jayne Walker.
Alex officially thanked the outgoing Directors for their long-term commitment to the organisations, the valuable insights and skills they contributed, and the leadership they showed. Each was presented with a framed photograph chosen from entries in the Ballarat Through my Eyes photography competition. Geoff Sharp then thanked Alex for his huge contribution to the organisations as Chair and presented him with a framed print as well. Alex introduced the new Chair and Deputy Chairs; Wayne Weaire, Mandy Macdonald and Mark Bruty.
A short presentation was made by Melissa Farrington of Ballarat Community Health about the Food Security Project being funded in part by United Way Ballarat and The Ballarat Foundation in 2017. See more here.
The formal proceedings complete, it was time for drinks and nibbles and a farewell speech or two.
Alex paid tribute to Geoff’s achievements, commitment and leadership of the two organisations and as a leader of the Ballarat Community.
Geoff originally commenced with United Way Ballarat on a six-month contract when the organisation consisted of Geoff, his right-hand woman Liz, and a handful of volunteers. They spent tireless hours investing their energies into growing the organisation with the aim of giving back to our community and ultimately making Ballarat a better place for us all, with a particular focus on the most disadvantaged within our community. The six-month contract became nine years which saw significant development of United Way Ballarat including the integration of Volunteering Ballarat, Ballarat Cares, Lead-on Ballarat and of course the partnership formed with The Ballarat Foundation. The successful programs introduced in Geoff’s time include Ballarat Reads, Volunteering Ballarat, and the L2P Learner Driver Mentor Program. Before inviting Geoff to accept a gift from the Board Alex finished by saying:
‘I believe Geoff’s greatest achievement in these 9 years has been his ability to bring the community together. Collaborating with people, businesses and other not-for-profit charitable organisations has not only enabled our two organisations to grow but has given us a greater opportunity to assist the most disadvantaged in our community.’
In accepting the thanks of the Board, Geoff acknowledged that there were far too many people to thank individually but that he particularly wanted to thank the Volunteers and Donors in the room for giving so generously.
Geoff left us with a final encouragement:
“Our city is changing; it is an exciting time to be in Ballarat. But, there must be a discomfort that we all should carry:
- 2500 people were homeless last year.
- 1500 kids started school without the skills to succeed, and they will never catch up.
- Our school completion rate in this region is one of the worst in Victoria.
- Our young people are not getting the jobs they need.
- The need for food relief in Ballarat grows every day.
- Despite the profile it is getting, we are a long way from addressing the attitudes and cultural change required to deal with domestic violence.
This is our challenge, we have the opportunity to unite and work together to address the root cause of these issues. We need to shift our focus from what can I do for my organisation, boss, electorate to what can I do for my community.”
The recruitment process for a new CEO is underway and an announcement will be made in the coming weeks.
Read your copy of 2016 A Year in review – United Way Ballarat’s Annual Report.