MANCHESTER NEWS SPECIAL
TWO OF Mark Cunningham’s key allegiances quickly become apparent during his first interview since formally taking over as chief executive of The Fed, Manchester’s major Jewish welfare organisation.
The Manchester City desk calendar is a give-away, although these days he’s as likely to be cheering on Stockport County. More relevant is his boundless admiration for a charity he initially encountered on a placement in the mid-1990s as part of his social work qualification.
“I loved the organisation and thought ‘I’d really like to work here’,” he recalls. When the opportunity arose shortly afterwards, he took “a sizeable pay cut to join but instinctively felt it was a good move”.
Starting as a social worker, he has risen through the ranks, serving as a team manager, head of services, director of community services and, most recently, chief operating officer. “They all seem to involve filling skips,” he says laughing. “It’s been a 20-year apprenticeship and I’m still learning.”
As chief executive, he has big shoes to fill, replacing the long-serving and well-respected Karen Phillips, whose philosophy impressed him from the outset. And as a non-Jew, he has been “blown away by how the Jewish community fills the gaps that social services and government leave”.
Celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, The Fed has its base at Heathlands, home to around 170 people — 100 in residential care, 27 in nursing care, 12 in a dementia care unit and 30 in Moorview independent living.
A shop, hairdressers, café and a synagogue which attracts a number of non-residents on Shabbat are among other features of the airy and welcoming interior.
The charity strives to foster a community ethos and one of Mr Cunningham’s favourite facts is that 1,000 people visit weekly. The café brings in school run mums and businessmen between meetings. It is also popular with children visiting relatives in the homes. “Grandma can send them to the café with a one pound coin to buy a halachically apppropriate bar of chocolate,” notes Mr Cunningham, who spent 10 years with a charity supporting children with epilepsy before joining The Fed.
There is also a more practical com-
So much goes on it’s difficult to quantify’