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Interview with Gay Penfold, Chair of The Benevolent Society

Interview with Gay Penfold, Chair of The Benevolent Society

Hello, Gay, thank you for agreeing to be grilled by us today! Could you start by telling us about The Benevolent Society and who the charity supports?

The Benevolent Society supports members, employees, ex and future employees of the National Association of Jewellers, British Travelgoods and Accessories Association, The Giftware Association, the Jewellery Distributors’ Association and the Surface Engineering Association who make up the British Allied Trades Federation (BATF).

·   The Benevolent Society gives regular monthly grants to over 40 beneficiaries who currently work or have previously worked in the industry sectors covered by BATF and who are facing financial hardship, and we give one of grants for specific items. We currently have 42 beneficiaries.

·  We provide support through bursaries for those who are studying to begin their career in the industry sectors covered by BATF.

·  We help with one-off special industry wide needs, such as the Covid fund, the cost-of-living support fund and winter fuel payments.

·  We undertake fund raising activities throughout the year to generate funds. 

Why and how was the charity established in the first place, and why does it sit within the British Allied Trades Federation?

The Society came into being on 2 June 1980 through the joining together of the former British Jewellery and Giftware Federation Benevolent Fund (formed in 1939) and the Leathergoods Benevolent Society (formed in 1924) and came about as a result the British Leathergoods Manufacturers’ Association joining the (then) British Jewellery & Giftware Federation, which is now the British Allied Trades Federation (BATF).

In those days, of course, there was no welfare state – no pensions (and certainly no works pensions), no social security and no national health services.  These were all introduced over the years, but even today, many who have worked hard all their lives find that, in their retirement or because they cannot work due to ill health, they are struggling to survive. It is, therefore, singularly appropriate for the trades covered by the BATF to ensure that old and worthy personnel, who have given long and faithful service, have a particular charity to whom they may turn in case of need. 

What makes being the Chair of the charity so special?

I have been a part of the Benevolent Society since 2014 when I joined as a trustee. At this time the Society had recognised the need to provide support for those at the beginning as well as those at the end of their careers - so I worked with two fellow trustees to introduce bursaries to our portfolio of support. I became Chair of the Benevolent Society two years ago and am fortunate to be able to rely on the support and commitment of six trustees who are drawn from the Giftware Association, Surface Engineering Association, and the National Association of Jewellers.  Making balanced decisions, thinking about both short- and long-term goals and using my skills and experience to support Ben Soc, planning what we will do, what we want to achieve and then helping us achieve those aims is both a challenging and rewarding responsibility as I and my trustees strive to make informed decisions that will impact on people’s lives. I feel that we are making a difference to the lives of our beneficiaries and our bursary recipients.

Your Annual Ball is coming up, what can you tell us about this event?

The Annual Benevolent Society Ball is our major fundraising event and is always held in December. This year it is being held on Thursday December 7th at the Grand Hotel in Birmingham.  We only have 3 tables left (individual tickets are available) so if you would like to join us contact Laura Banner -

The Ball is a fantastic evening held in a superb venue with good food, entertainment "money can’t buy" auction items, raffles, and tombola.

How can Giftware Association members get more involved in the charity, should they wish? Are there different ways in which they could extend their support?

All members of the BATF Trade Associations are invited to contribute to the Benevolent Society when they renew their annual membership - it is not compulsory.  Sadly, the numbers of members committing to making this small annual contribution is in decline. The Giftware Association helps the Benevolent Society by providing items for a Tombola from donated Gift of the Year entries which is part of our Annual Ball fundraising activities. In addition, this year we received £1,400.00 which was raised at the Gift of the Year Awards. As well as their annual contribution we would really appreciate members of the GA making The Benevolent Society their charity of the year, and we would love to hear of any fundraising initiatives and activities from GA members that will support our activities and boost our funds!


Find out more about The Benevolent Society here:


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