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Impact Stories

Supporter Spotlight – Stephen Critchlow, CEO of Evergreen Group

Stephen Critchlow is the CEO of Evergreen Group, a social impact investing company focussed on sustainability and health. Stephen has been a champion of OnSide from the early days, having been a founding supporter of the charity. He is now a funder and board member for Horizon, Grimsby Youth Zone.

I’ve been a supporter of OnSide from the very start, even before it was set up, as I supported Bolton Lads & Girls Club, the blueprint of what’s now known as a Youth Zone. I’m from Bolton, and I volunteered with the Council, so I saw the results and impact on the children and wider community. I had a Bolton based business and many of our team volunteered as mentors in the youth club. My kids went to BLGC, and what I really enjoyed was that it was classless, it helped with integrating the community.

The first thing that struck me about the Youth Zone was the quality of the facility. When I first went in, I thought ‘yes they’ve done it right!’, but I expected that knowing the people involved. It was inspiring. It’s the kind of place where I’d hope a young person would go for the first time and be impressed and inspired. It’s something which makes them believe that society is prepared to give them what they need. It’s not a second-rate place, it’s the best place you can imagine. I’m not sure you could make it any better. I was a member of a David Lloyd gym at the time, and I felt we’d managed to give young people the same facilities, which is very levelling and fantastic to see.

I was lucky to have a really good experience of youth work and youth centres growing up. My parents were in a Methodist church in Prestwich, and we had a youth club where we played snooker, badminton, and table tennis, all of which I’ve enjoyed throughout my life since. It was nothing like OnSide, but we weren’t short of anything. There was always something to do and good people. I think that was so beneficial and a good 50 years later I still know those youth workers.

I’m very proud to have been a Founder Patron of OnSide and part of the story of taking the Bolton model and growing it nationally. It was a no-brainer after seeing the results in my hometown. Now I’m supporting Horizon, Grimsby Youth Zone. The sustainable energy side of my business, Evergreen Energy, built a wind farm and we decided to give some of the profits to the local community, opting for the funds to go towards a Youth Zone. I visited the local areas and worked with the OnSide team to identify where would most benefit from a Youth Zone.  We felt Grimsby would enable us to make the biggest difference with the cash that we have.

I think there needs to be a Youth Zone in every community, and there are so many ways you can support to help make this a reality. Financially by giving money, I’d say it’s one of the charities where you can see a clear and direct connection between the money you give and the difference you make. You can also give your time by volunteering. My team who mentored young people benefited greatly from doing this, just as much as the young people. It’s given them a great feeling of wellbeing.

To those thinking of getting involved, I’d say giving your money to a youth charity is a great thing to do. With OnSide and BLGC I can feel that every pound makes a difference. It also gave my team the feeling that we’re doing the right thing, especially as they could see the benefits in their hometown. That’s where the synergy starts to happen, and the club becomes a catalyst for change within the town.

Inspired to get involved?  Find out how you can support us!

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