“It was as I got older and realised how little others do, but how much he does, that I began to appreciate how special he is.”
Chloe Ilsen (Adlestone) is no stranger to hard work. The middle daughter of Mark and Gabrielle, her formative years were filled with the constant background hum of communal affairs – conversations about, and involvement in, numerous charities and community organisations – a regular part of family life.
Now an adult, employed in the family’s award-winning business, Beaverbrooks, and Chair of one of The Fed’s newest committees, Chloe has an even better understanding of why “…pitching in and doing your bit” is so important. But
“There wasn’t really a lightbulb moment,” she recalls, “but it was a general dawning of awareness as I got older that his priorities weren’t the same as other people.
“When I was in 6th Form, Dad told me that rather than getting a summer job, he wanted me to volunteer during the holidays or after school and he would give me an allowance. From that point onwards I was very aware of my parents’ charitable ethos.
“That was a definite turning point. As a I’ve got older, my understanding of just how many things my dad throws himself into has grown; people will stop me and tell that he’s involved in this and that, and I simply cannot keep track of all his commitments.
“The real eye-opener for me was the year he spent as High Sheriff of Greater Manchester. He did so much incredible work that year and has carried it on since.
“Whenever we drive to work together, he’ll talk to me about the projects he’s involved in and organisations he’s working with, and I get out of the car each time thinking ‘Oh my goodness – you do so much stuff!’”
As the Committee Chair of FedEx, a new group of young Fed-supporting Mancunians living in London, Chloe has firmly followed in her father’s footsteps. One wonders whether she was pushed towards upholding the family’s charitable values by her trailblazing parents.
“As children, my sisters and I were given free reign by our parents to pursue whatever we liked, but simply because they are such incredible role-models, we internalised the notion that you help others.
“We wanted to help because they led by example and were constantly finding ways to support people – be it twinning my Bat Mitzvah with a girl from Ethiopia or encouraging me to volunteer rather than get a holiday job.
“We were constantly exposed to the idea that giving is a responsibility we all share, and from a young age we were encouraged to find our own ways to meet that challenge. We took part each year in The Fed’s Caring Sunday Telethon; we volunteered regularly and enrolled in the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme. We did it because that’s what we know.”
And this gentle, leading-by-example approach was no accident. Mark, reminiscing about his children’s younger days, is clear on his and Gabrielle’s method.
“Our kids always saw my work ethic and my commitments, but I encouraged them to find their own way. Many years ago, I was particularly inspired by the story in Lech Lecha – the weekly Torah portion – concerning Abraham leaving his father’s home to make his own way in the world.
“My starting position is ‘let them be,’ and see what happens. “The role of parents is to educate their children and to share their moral compass, but their passions must be their own.”
Chloe’s own introduction to The Fed came as a teenage volunteer.
“I visited a lady who was blind, as well as helping a family who had a child with a severe speech impediment. The family were very religious, and it gave me an early insight into the incredible variety of people that The Fed support. My understanding and admiration of the organisation kept growing and peaked when my dad joined the board and became Chairman.
“He always said that it would be amazing to one day have a dedicated committee in London made up of Fed supporters, and I am delighted to be involved in making that a reality.
“London has an amazing Jewish community which supports many of its own charities. I feel the same should be done by young people from Manchester for Manchester’s organisations and if you had to choose one which represents the entire community it would have to be The Fed.”
FedEx was formed in the winter of 2019/20 to raise awareness and financial support for The Fed within London’s ex-pat Mancunian community. A hugely successful Blingo Bingo launch event in Camden Market was attended by more than 150, raising more than £5,000.
“The launch was absolutely incredible,” remembers Chloe.
“We were thrilled with the turnout – there were loads of Mancunians who came and the money we raised was astonishing.
“It was very easy to put the committee together, too. Mancunians now living in London, who have an awareness of The Fed, are delighted to support the charity because it’s part of our communal life. We grew up with it, and everyone knows someone who has benefited from it, or works for it, or volunteers for it. It’s a household name.
“Covid-19 put a halt to many of our plans, but it allowed us to further another of our aims – to be creative and find alternatives to traditional charity dinners. We’re all in our 20s and 30s and those types of evenings don’t necessarily appeal to everyone. We want to come up with original ideas – one of which was our recent Chanukah toy drive.
“The FedEx committee organised and circulated an Amazon wish list of toys for children using The Fed’s Project Smile Play & Learn Service, or who are supported by its Community Advice and Support Team. All the toys were specifically chosen for the needs of individual children, and donors bought more than 120. It’s just one example of thinking differently and setting innovative new goals.”
And Chloe is determined to develop FedEx’s early successes.
“Building up brand awareness is absolutely key, but we need to get people signed up to monthly donations. When you consider it’s only the equivalent of a couple of Starbucks coffees each month, people realise that they can make a difference.”
“Charity begins at home. So many of us living in London still call Manchester ‘home’ – and that’s why I’m thrilled to have that as my focus as Chair of the FedEx Committee.
“And If I can achieve a fraction of what I’ve learned from my dad in the future with The Fed, I’ll be extremely proud.”