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Alan Oswald, chairman of Cambridge Re-Use, steps down after 20 years

After 20 years of service, Alan Oswald is stepping down as chairman of Cambridge Re-Use.

Alan Oswald. Picture: Keith Heppell
Alan Oswald. Picture: Keith Heppell

Founded as Cambridge Sofa in 1988, the charity was renamed Cambridge Re-Use in 2011. It helps those on low incomes make a comfortable home by collecting donated furniture from the community and then selling it in its shops at lower prices than in charity shops. The concept also helps cut down on waste.

Alan, a University of Cambridge graduate who read chemistry at Trinity Hall, says he has “mixed feelings” about stepping down. “I love it,” he notes, “but I’m getting older, like everybody else, and I think it’s time that I hand it on to other people, and that could give another impetus to the charity to make certain that what we do – and have done for rather a long time – will continue for a lot of years to come.”

Alan says that fundamentally what he’ll miss most is the people. “I don’t just mean the people around me – the other trustees, the members of staff and the very important group of volunteers we’ve got – but I also mean the people we’re helping,” he says.

Alan Oswald. Picture: Keith Heppell
Alan Oswald. Picture: Keith Heppell

“We are a charity set up to help people. Cambridge is the most divided city in the country, other than London, and there’s a huge gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, and the way it’s looking the gap is going to get even greater.

“Being able to help people who can’t afford to go out and splash the cash on new stuff for their house but get them decent stuff at a very reasonable cost, there’s a lot of pleasure in being able to do that. I’ll miss that, I’ll miss the business challenge of it, because we’re a charity but we have to balance the books. There’s a challenge in meeting the social objective and with keeping the accountant happy.”

What does Alan, who is heavily involved in the community in the village of Whittlesford, feel he’s brought to the role? “I came as a businessman; I had my arm twisted to show an interest in the charity but liked what they were trying to do.

“But I have tried to make sure that we ran the business properly – we’re doing the right things, but we need to do them correctly as well, and so it’s a little bit of a business influence into the charity. And I don’t fall out with people easily so I guess that’s been a help as well.”

Alan adds that the charity is actively on the lookout for trustees, as well as anyone hoping to gain experience of working at board level or in initiating and managing the implementation of new initiatives that have an impact on business success. For more information, visit cambridgereuse.org.uk.

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