MAN­CHES­TER NEWS SPE­CIAL

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The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY BARRY TOBERMAN

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’

PHO­TOS: MIKE POLOWAY

Mark Cun­ning­ham

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