Chris Porter shares his vision and plans for The Benevolent

CAN YOU TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT YOURSELF, AND YOUR CONNECTION WITH THE TRADE?

My background was in the logistics side of the business. I started in the warehouse at Rawlings Voight Ltd in 1979, and from there joined the family business of Porter & Laker Ltd in 1984. We were acquired by Ferry Freighting in 1991, who in turn were fully acquired by JF Hillebrand Group in 2008. I’m proud that by the time I left at the end of last year the Porter & Laker name is still a key part of Hillebrand UK’s service portfolio.

WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE ROLE OF CHIEF EXECUTIVE AT THE BENEVOLENT?

I was approached by Bill Page to become a Trustee in 2001. I loved everything that the charity stood for, looking after people within the drinks industry community, funded by the drinks community itself. A huge circle of companies and people, but with a centralised charitable core helping those in need quickly, efficiently and effectively. I was Chairman in 2013 and 2014 and loved it. When finished I felt that there was some unfinished business, so when David (Cox) announced his retirement I was extremely keen to take over the role. I’m loving every minute.

WHAT WILL YOU BRING TO THE ROLE?

A strong desire to create an environment where the drinks industry is connected and aware of the support that is available to everyone in times of personal hardship.  I will talk to more fantastic companies and individuals and add to those who have already helped us take the charity to a greater level of awareness than ever before. I will continue to grow these partnerships, reiterating our messaging through an extensive use of social media, and I intend to have lot of fun doing it too! I will be at all our events and as many individual events as possible run by our Corporate Partners. Having never had a ‘9 to 5’ mentality, I am here to listen and help implement ideas on how anyone wants to help The Benevolent and above all how The Benevolent will help anyone in our trade in need of support.

WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITIES IN THE FIRST YEAR?

To provide even greater support to an even greater number of people. Our mental health campaign #NotAlone will tackle the need in this vital area of support within our industry by advocating for a stigma-free conversation. I am extremely proud of the development and launch of our campaign to support members of the trade facing mental health issues. The introduction of our Benevolent helpline manned by trained professional counsellors (0800 915 4610) provides help to colleagues facing any such difficulties, specifically to listen and understand their needs and issues. I consider these counsellors an extension of our team, an extension of The Benevolent itself, looking after our own community. #NotAlone.

The next thing is to be able to make sure we continue to be able to fund the welfare services we provide,  and my job will be to grow the partnerships in order to grow the amount of help that we’ll be required to give. Greater visibility in the North of England and Northern Ireland with the reintroduction of our Northern Event. To sell out and exceed expectation of all our events, thus our Ball, the Quiz Night, the Golf Day. The appeal that our messages need to not just reach the upper echelons of companies but every person working for it. The role of our wonderful Benevolent Ambassadors will be key to this, encouraging companies to place our posters, buckets or collection tins and so on.

WHAT PART OF THE NEW ROLE ARE YOU ENJOYING MOST?

Everything! It’s an incredibly privileged and unique position. Having been in the industry my whole working life I feel very fortunate indeed to be, quite literally, at the heart of it. I have been saddened and humbled by our beneficiaries’ stories making my determination to help even greater. I have been so heartened and grateful for the actions and words of so many individuals and companies promising and delivering support to me and The Benevolent. I am also incredibly fortunate to have a small but bright, dedicated, efficient and knowledgeable team to work with in the Head Office. Every day is ‘on message’ but enormously fun too with our sense of purpose always at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO COMPANIES THAT STILL DO NOT SUPPORT THE BENEVOLENT?

There are a thousands of great charities out there. The Benevolent is the only charity that underpins the drinks industry when delivering support to those working in it, whose need is greatest. Companies are of course free to support other wonderful charities, that help those with a variety of needs or hardship. I would say, sadly, that there are people within our industry who are suffering from these very same issues. By supporting The Benevolent though you’re supporting someone within our own industry who may be suffering from the same issue as those supported by national charities. The difference is here: when supporting, you are supporting the ‘local’ trade community, because The Benevolent, in fact, actively support its own – OUR OWN – community. I’d love to tell you more, so please get in touch to arrange a meeting.

HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR FREE TIME?

Always pretty busy – I have a WORK HARD – PLAY HARD ethos! The Benevolent is (genuinely) never far from my thoughts although I might get a distracted occasionally by watching Crystal Palace FC. Sometimes even then my mind tends to drift… I love my golf at Tandridge Golf Club, listening to great music (“anything post 1955”), a passion for Real Ale  and my own not-terribly-good attempts at cooking – matching whatever all wines to suit, film and the occasional box set. Apparently I have a reputation for telling shocking jokes too. I’m lucky to have a wonderfully supportive wife and we enjoy time together doing all the above – apart from the golf..and the Ale! Sunday afternoons I tend to nod off in front of the TV; it’s a bit of a full-stop until early Monday, when I’m recharged and ready.

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