“If you don’t step outside of your own church you will have no idea where the need is”
After notching up 20 years of banking experience, Wendy Steele decided to take redundancy and began work with the Citizens Advice Bureau. It was when she was introduced to Revd Chris Fallone at The Saviour, Collyhurst, that things started to get busy!
“Chris had a vision for a community money advice centre for his parish and was looking for some help in running it. After talking it through with my husband we decided it was a brilliant opportunity to work with people and use my set of skills.” Wendy now manages Gateway M40 a debt advice and money education service working out of Church of the Saviour, Collyhurst. Eighteen months on Wendy and her team are now helping 400 clients with a total £1.3 million of debt and helping to resolve, so far, £0.5 million of debt that has been written off or re-negotiated with creditors.
“We offer a holistic service to improve people’s lives and alleviate poverty” says Wendy. “Relieving debt has a ripple effect – it changes people’s lives” she explains. “We can help people navigate their way through the problems of debt and empower them to get back on their feet. We hope to build people to work again.” Wendy describes a community that has been financially excluded for years – with no card machines, few shops or even a post office. “We started gently but we are now worked off our feet. The need is very great.”
Wendy had a strong spiritual basis for her life as a child, and when she wanted her own child to have that foundation she turned to the Church. “It’s so important that when things go wrong in your life, if you can dig deep down to those foundations you will be ok.” And it’s in her new work where Wendy lives out that faith. “I’m not good at talking about my faith but I say well, look, I’m doing it by my actions! I believe I know what needs to be done and I know I can make a difference with my skillset that others haven’t had the opportunity to have.”
Wendy explains that their work at Gateway M40, now a registered charity, is for all - faith or no faith - but it is rooted in Christianity. It is, she says, life changing for the people who are delivering the help as well as for those who receive it. “I think that if Jesus was here now He’d be in poor communities showing them there is a better way. He’d be getting His hands dirty.”
There’s no doubt that it’s hard work but as Wendy says, “I’m part of a team making a massive difference”.