About Us

Our Story

Back in 1983 there were no real treatments for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – perhaps just a few sessions of physiotherapy and some vaguely reassuring words.

For Don Hawkins and his dedicated team this was not good enough. So, they advertised in the local press, held public meetings, raised funds – and founded Sussex MS Centre.

Within a year, there was enough money to purchase and install an oxygen chamber in Shoreham’s Southlands Hospital, one of the first in the country specifically for people with MS. The results were astonishing, and soon our community had grown to over 100 people.

In 1994, with Southlands Hospital needing to expand, Adur District Council offered us space in Southwick Recreation Ground (complete with parking) – our current leafy, green and airy home, where we erected second-hand prefabricated buildings and continued to grow. By 2007 we’d made such a name for ourselves that we added an additional unit to house a multipurpose gym floor, and in 2009 we refurbished the original prefabricated buildings.

Fifteen years on, we are a flourishing user-led community with a small team of professional staff, over fifty volunteers and a dedicated Board of Trustees. Most of us have MS, though some have other conditions. Oxygen Therapy remains at the heart of what we do, but we also offer individual holistic therapies, classes, support groups and talks. We also have a thriving social calendar brought to members by a voluntary Social Committee.

Whether you’ve been recently diagnosed with MS or have had it for a while, we can offer you therapies and support whenever you need it.

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Our Board of Trustees

Our Board of Trustees have a range of relevant knowledge and skills. Two thirds have MS, while the others are regular volunteers with skills relevant to governing the centre.

All our Board members are frequent visitors to the Centre, interacting with members and staff. This gives them a good insight into the Centre's varying needs.

Chris Ash-Edwards

Chair of the Board of Trustees

I have been a member of the Centre since 2014 and have MS.
I am a Chartered Accountant with extensive financial and general management experience mostly in container shipping. I retired in 2005, and have been a Trustee since 2014, currently sitting as Chair of Trustees.

Martin Bennett

Health & Safety Trustee

I am the Centre’s senior chamber operator and I carry out training sessions for operators with the help of Alan Taylor.

I have been a trustee for at least 7 years using my experience of Health and Safety. I enjoy helping to continually improve the Centre for our members carrying out a lot of maintenance work and more recently adapting many masks for the use of members attending Oxygen Therapy.

Ken Starnes

Treasurer

I was born in Brighton, and educated in the local school system.

As my career developed I became a professionally qualified Banker and Treasurer, working locally, in London and internationally at various financial institutions and commercial organisations including the Royal Air Forces Association and West London Mission.

Since retiring in 2012 I have volunteered with local charities including Homestart, East Sussex. I have also volunteered with a non-profit organisation, National Approved Premises Association – London.

As a recently appointed trustee at the MS Centre I look forward to using my knowledge and experience as we move forward.

Alison Clough

Centre Membership Trustee

I have been a member of Sussex MS Centre since 2005, when I was first diagnosed with MS.

I attend the Keep Fit and Pilates classes. For a special treat I have manicures and massages! I previously worked for Brighton and Hove Council as a Nursery Manager with experience in health & safety, safeguarding and managing staff. My main role on the Board is looking after Centre membership and Gift Aid.

Virginia Keefe

Therapist liaison and Safeguarding Trustee, and Osteopath

I was diagnosed with MS in 2001, and have been a member of the Centre since 2005, and a Trustee since 2011.

I am a Registered Osteopath. I work at the Centre, a medical centre and various natural health centres and have taught Osteopathy, Seated Exercise, Shiatsu and Chi Gong over the years. I attend the Centre for Oxygen Therapy, Pilates, Voice work, Beauty Therapy and occasionally Acupuncture and Therapeutic Massage.

I became a Trustee because I felt I could contribute to the Centre from a Business, Health and Safety and a holistic point of view.

Peter Cook

Trustee

I am a retired senior Royal Naval Officer having served Queen and Country for 35 years.

I became a member of the Centre when I was diagnosed with MS in 2009 and have used the oxygen chamber weekly throughout that time. Now retired, I feel that I am able to give something back to the Centre in a way which I hope will enable the Centre to move forward by using my life skills and my understanding of MS.

Alison Walter

Trustee

I was diagnosed with MS 40 years ago and have been coming to this marvelous and supportive Centre for since 2005.

I attend the Yoga and Pilates classes when I can which are very beneficial to me and I’m a volunteer receptionist on Tuesday mornings.

Samuel Gritt

Deputy Chair

I began attending board meetings as an observer during 2020 and officially became a Trustee for the Centre at the start of 2021.

I am a local government professional with management and leadership experience in many services including the bereavement services and investment teams. My career has been very ‘people orientated’ and I care deeply about the needs of the community.

Whilst I do not have MS, my wife was diagnosed in 2011 which has provided me with a greater understanding of the condition, treatments and therapies available to help ‘live your best life’.

I hope to be able to use my drive and ambition to help the centre and in turn help out local community.

Gary Hector

Trustee

Hello, I’m Gary Hector, and I have a diverse entrepreneurial background spanning 25 years. Until recently I have been managing the software company I founded 10 years ago, delivering educational solutions to schools in over 60 countries.

My personal connections with several people living with MS, as well as my two-decades-long friendship with EJ, the Centre Manager, have given me valuable insights into the impact of MS on people’s lives, let me witness the incredible work accomplished by EJ and the entire team at the Centre, and made me passionate about helping to make a difference. So, after closely observing board meetings for some months, I became a trustee in May 2023.

The knowledge and expertise I have acquired through my entrepreneurial endeavours can provide valuable support to the Centre, and I aim to contribute from both a business and a technical standpoint. I am honoured to serve as a trustee and work alongside such a dedicated team.

Our Team

Emily-Jane Stuttard

Emily-Jane Stuttard

Centre Manager

Emily-Jane (known as EJ) has been full-time Centre Manager since December 2018, before which she worked as a manager in the Arts and Education for 18 years.

She has always been interested in complementary therapies and is passionate about helping to enable those with MS and other debilitating illnesses to live their lives to the fullest potential possible.

She has a broad remit including the day-to-day running of the Centre, HR, financial management, and working with Trustees to ensure effective governance. Her most important aim, though, is to provide a safe, warm, welcoming space for all the Centre’s members. If you’ve not yet spoken to her, please do introduce yourself – she’d love to meet you.

Rebekah Walker

Operations and Community Fundraiser

Rebekah started working at the Centre in July 2023. Previously, she worked as a Primary School Teacher and continues to channel her passion for supporting local communities into her work at Sussex MS Centre.

Rebekah assists with all things operational and is responsible for community fundraising (e.g. our Christmas Raffles and other sponsored events such as the London Marathon). If you have a great idea for helping to raise funds for the Centre, please speak to Rebekah or email her on events@mssussex.com

Helen Turner Admin and Operations Support

Helen Turner

Admin and Operations Support

Helen Turner joined the Centre in October 2021 to support EJ and Rebekah, Monday – Thursday with all things admin and operations.

She has a background in sales, marketing and corporate development from her time working in the hotel and recruitment industries, as well as for charities and start-ups and will be putting those skills to good use.

Please say hello when you see her, she also makes a good cup of tea!

 

Our Volunteers

We have an amazing group of people who come to the Centre every day to help us; without our volunteers we would not be able to open six days a week, and provide some evening services.

They help us run our reception, our HBO chamber, our kitchen, our social and fundraising events and of course, all our Trustees are volunteers.

Our volunteers' page details the many ways in which you can involved in putting something back into the centre. We always need your help so if you think you could volunteer some time with us please feel free to contact us.

Our Interns

We are very lucky to have some great people who come and work with us through various work placement schemes.

Please see our volunteer's page for the latest openings.

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Our Patrons

Debbie Kennard

Patron

Debbie Kennard has previously served four years in as County Councillor for Shoreham, and one year as the Deputy Cabinet Member for Children – Start of Life.

She is the Director of an organisation Blueprint 22 and the Sussex Art Academy. Debbie is the Cabinet Member for Safer, Stronger Communities for West Sussex County Council.

Alastair Hignell

Patron

Alastair is a former England rugby union player and also played county cricket for Gloucestershire.

He won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason Award in 2008 for his work in spreading awareness of multiple sclerosis. In 2009 Alastair was awarded a CBE in the Birthday Honours for his services to sports commentary and for his charity work in raising funds for MS.

Annual Reviews

Please take a look at our 2019 Annual Review and other issues.

It gives details of the support we provide for people with MS across Sussex. Of course, it also contains our latest financial information as well as recording a big vote of thanks to some of the fantastic staff, volunteers, people, trusts and companies that have supported us over the years.

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Survey Results 2023

(PDF, 797KB)

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Annual Review 2018

(PDF, 2.3MB)

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Annual Review 2015

(PDF, 4.6MB)

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Annual Review 2014

(PDF, 3MB)

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Annual Review 2013

(PDF, 4.2MB)