Debbie Kerslake has been an instrumental part of Cruse over the last couple of decades. Debbie was the Chief Executive for ten years and only stepped down last year after being part of the organisation for 19 years. She says that being part of the Cruse family will stay with her always.
Debbie says: “When my dad died when I was 11, I saw first-hand the devastating impact of bereavement on a family. As a social worker, I became aware of the excellent work that Cruse did and would refer my clients who needed support. I undertook Cruse training and on becoming a manager would send my staff on Cruse training courses. I was keen to join Cruse knowing the vital role of the organisation and the quality service offered.
“I joined Cruse in 1999 as a Project Manager and was responsible for developing and implementing quality assurance across Cruse. I then became the Head of Service Planning and Development in 2002 and in 2008 took on the role of Chief Executive.
“I loved working for Cruse because of the people – the absolute dedication, commitment, passion and skills of all the volunteers and staff and the opportunity to make a real difference to people’s lives. Being part of the Cruse family will stay with me always.
“I had so many memorable moments so it is difficult to write them all down. The ones that really stand out include the indescribable emotions of being in New York after 9/11 and accompanying bereaved people going to Ground Zero. It was a privilege to represent Cruse at events including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee at St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Patron’s Lunch in 2016. I also enjoyed celebrating Cruse’s special occasions including the 40th and 50th anniversaries, during which I met the Queen.
“However, the most memorable have been the moments when individuals have shared their stories and experience with me; the volunteer who told me that he volunteered for Cruse in the two hours respite care he received for his wife who has dementia; the young boy who said to me he wanted to help bereaved people when he grew up, because having been supported by Cruse he knew the difference this made and the dad who simply said Cruse had “saved his life” after the suicide of his daughter.
“For 60 years Cruse has been alongside people at the worst time of their lives, ensuring they have somewhere to turn. The organisation has had so many achievements over the last 60 years, including being at the forefront of bereavement care in the UK, supporting the number of bereaved people that they do every year and developing innovative ways of working with bereaved people, including children and young people.
“The organisation has also worked hard to campaign and advocate on behalf of bereaved people, responded to many major incidents, including 9/11 and more recently, Grenfell and has developed excellent training for anyone coming into contact with bereaved people. I am so proud of all it has achieved and proud that I have been a part of this amazing organisation.”
To mark the charity’s 60th anniversary, Debbie is riding 60 miles across the Peak District to raise money for the vital work Cruse does. Sponsor her here: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Debbiekerslake1