Charity begins at home as Bryson moves to new headquarters

Bryson Group chief executive Shane Logan at its new headquarters at River's Edge
Bryson Group chief executive Shane Logan at its new headquarters at River's Edge Bryson Group chief executive Shane Logan at its new headquarters at River's Edge

CHARITABLE group Bryson has completed the move from its home of more than 75 years to a new base off Belfast's Ravenhill Road.

And it coincides with it delivering one of the biggest emergency support packages since its founding in 1906.

In April it announced a £250,000 emergency support package designed to help the most vulnerable individuals during the coronavirus pandemic.

And according to chief executive Shane Logan - who stepped into the role little over 18 months ago after leaving a senior post at Ulster Rugby - its delivery to those most in need has been "a herculean challenge".

The Bryson Fund has used cash from the organisation's own reserves to provide practical and emotional support to hundreds of struggling families and individuals.

Shane says: “There's been such a searing need for this help, and our challenge has actually been coping with demand.

“The critical support we've been able to offer covers the whole gambit, from providing cash for household essentials like food, along with oil, gas, and electricity bills, to emotional support over the telephone or in socially-distanced face-to-face meetings - all sorts of coping mechanisms for those in extreme difficulties.

"And where often the traditional support we offer can typically delivered over a period of weeks, often through this fund we been turning things around in an hour or two.

"For instance, we had a call from a family with six children, one of whom was a diabetic. Their fridge broke down and vital insulin couldn't be kept at the right temperature. They simply couldn't afford to replace the fridge and contacted us in desperation. We were able to have a new one in their house in an hour."

He added: "In a strange way, people are more willing to seek our help, and launching this fund has been so necessary at this time."

Initially targeted at 3,000 people, the numbers helped now are nearer 4,000, and the £250,000 pot has already been topped up for another £50,000.

But Shane adds: "We can't roll out emergency relief like this endlessly, and we are trying to morph some of the recipients into our other services. It's about trying to get people off the path of dependence, but that can be difficult."

Bryson has long been a pioneer of the social enterprise sector in Northern Ireland and at the forefront of tackling some of the major issues facing society, including fuel poverty, unemployment and environmental issues.

Such is its workload that in the last year alone it has taken on more than 200 new staff, with around 30 specifically to administer the Bryson Fund.

That growth strategy prompted its move from Bedford Street to Rivers Edge on the Ravenhill Road, which has become Bryson's new administration office and service centre, bringing together all its staff and services together under s single roof.

And that has led to the sale of its former headquarters next door to the Ulster Hall, a listed former linen warehouse, designed in the mid 1800s by William J. Barre and which has been in Bryson's ownership since 1944.

The sale has now successfully completed, though a confidentially clause in place prohibits Shane from disclosing the buyer.