Justin Sargent OBE DL, Chief Executive
Justin joined Somerset Community Foundation in 2005 bringing considerable experience in community development and grant-making.
“Throughout my career I’ve worked with local communities and individuals, helping them achieve the things they value most in their locality. Before coming to Somerset I supported small community groups and local NGOs in Lesotho, managed rural development initiatives in the Countryside Agency in the UK and led the pilot Countryside Stewardship scheme in Herefordshire and Lancashire. In 2017 I obtained a Postgraduate Diploma in Voluntary Sector Management from CASS (now Bayes) Business School, and in 2018 I joined the Board of Trustees at the Nelson Trust. I was honoured to be recognised with an OBE for services to the community in Somerset in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in June 2021. And in December 2023 I was appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant by HM Lord-Lieutenant of Somerset, Mohammed Saddiq.”
My favourite place in Somerset is Harridge Woods near Shepton Mallet. It’s a timeless and magical ancient ‘temperate rainforest’ where you can really feel the irresistible power of nature.”
Our Grants & Programmes Team
Andy Ridgewell, Programmes Director
Andy joined Somerset Community Foundation in January 2016 as Programmes Manager, before being promoted to Senior Programmes Manager. In December 2022 Andy became our Programmes Director.
“I grew up in Somerset and then worked for five years in Ethiopia and Tanzania for charities like Farm Africa and SOS Sahel. When I came back to the UK I started work as a fundraiser for several local charities here in the west country. Alongside my work at Somerset Community Foundation, I also served as trustee for Spark Somerset from 2019 to 2023.
My favourite place in Somerset is along our coast. The South West Coast Path takes you through coastal villages like East Quantoxhead and attractions like the waterfall at St Audries Bay.”
Kirsty Campbell, Senior Programmes Manager
“I moved to Somerset in 2006 having grown up in neighbouring Wiltshire. Previously, I’ve volunteered at Frome Community Education and Citizens Advice, before moving into the roles of Finance Administrator and Debt Adviser at Citizens Advice Mendip. I’ve also volunteered as a Restorative Justice facilitator and primary school governor. I have a BSc in Archaeology and an MSc in Geoarchaeology and worked in field archaeology before starting a family. I now have an allotment which I have found myself treating as a mini dig site!
I’m a member of the Twin Research project at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital Trust and I’ve found it fascinating discovering the contribution this research has on medical advances.
My favourite place in Somerset is the beautiful countryside surrounding Coleford close to the Mendip Hills. I walk our dogs there most days and love the tranquillity, scenery and wildlife, plus the friendly people I meet.”
Amelia Thompson, Senior Programmes Manager
Amelia joined SCF in October 2022 as a Senior Programmes Manager supporting the delivery of the Hinkley Point C Community Fund and the Somerset Social Enterprise Fund.
“Before joining SCF I worked supporting Somerset-based VCSEs as part of the team at Spark Somerset, looking at income diversity and sustainability as well as governance and business planning. I’m also involved in supporting the Octagon Theatre as part of the Advisory Board for their NPO with the Arts Council.
Most of my spare time is spent walking my excitable young Labrador. My favourite place in Somerset is the riverside in Langport, especially during the summer when we can pack the paddle board and a picnic and spend the entire day by the water.”
Peter Stolze, Programmes Manager
Peter joined SCF in January 2020 as Programmes Manager, supporting delivery of the Hinkley Point C Community Fund.
“I began my working life as a chef in Oxford, before returning to Somerset for a calmer way of life. I moved into a Community Learning role, where I forged partnerships with community organisations that develop skills in those furthest from learning and in greatest need of support.
On weekends I’ll mostly be found curled up with a book or testing out a new recipe (with varying degrees of success). Occasionally I can be found in the woods bouncing off trees head first at a local Airsoft (think: paintballing without the paint!) site.
I enjoy riding around Somerset on my motorbike, especially Cheddar Gorge, though my favourite place in Somerset would have to be Chalice Well and Gardens in Glastonbury, nowhere else feels quite as peaceful.”
Sean Boland, Programmes Manager
Sean joined Somerset Community Foundation as Programmes Manager in March 2023.
“After starting out as a volunteer for Mencap in north London, I spent 30 years managing services supporting young people, children and families, older adults and adults with learning disabilities. For 3 years I was Regional Business Manager for a national housing association overseeing care and support services, and prior to joining the Community Foundation worked in a number of interim roles supporting organisations around compliance, business improvement and operations.
I moved to my wife’s home county of Somerset in 2015, and when not working, enjoy walking my two labradoodles, listening to and playing music, and riding my motorbike.
My favourite place in Somerset is the Blackdown Hills and walking through beautiful ancient woodlands on the Staple Fitzpaine Herepath Trail.”
Clare Stephen, Programmes Manager
Clare joined Somerset Community Foundation in October 2023 as Grants Administrator and became a Programmes Manager in February 2024.
“After completing my Business Economics degree I’ve worked in London and the South West across a range of businesses. I’ve experience in floristry, the events industry and have also been involved in the engineering exploits of intrepid Somerset adventurers!
In more recent times I’ve worked in the social care sector, for organisations who support adults with learning disabilities. Most recently I was responsible for the communication and engagement rollout of a digital transformation programme for a national charity. I’m on the committee for the local branch of Save the Children and I also volunteer at the Wells Festival of Literature. On weekends I generally find myself either on the touchline supporting my children’s sporting pursuits or in the kitchen enjoying a spot of cooking (and eating!). I’ve so many favourite places in Somerset! We’re totally spoilt with nature’s beaches, unspoilt hills, caves, and gorges to explore (not to mention the starling spectaculars!) coupled with the man-made spectacles such as Wells Cathedral, Montacute House and Dunster Castle. It’s just a wonderful county to enjoy!”
Emily Berridge, Research and Insights Manager
Emily joined Somerset Community Foundation in October 2023, as Research and Insights Manager.
“Alongside a Masters of Research degree in Social Policy from the University of Bath I have 14 years experience of research in academic, professional, charity and political fields. I also write for a parenting column called Lemon-Aid, produced by Reach Plc.
In my spare time, I like to tour the coffee shops of Wells, writing my book about men and feminism, all while trying to shape my two young kids into respectable human beings.
My favourite place in Somerset is hard to narrow down but here goes; alongside the wonderful views from Glastonbury Tor and Ebor Gorge, for a water-baby like me, the best places in Somerset are Chew Valley Lake (wonderful at sunset), the moat in Wells and the duck pond at Collett Park in Shepton Mallet.”
Nina Pearson, Grants and Office Administrator
Nina joined the team in 2022 as Grants and Office Administrator.
“After completing my Law and Spanish Degree, I’ve worked in both the charity and professional services sectors.
Originally from Cambridgeshire, I settled in Somerset with my husband and daughter, who loves filling the rest of my time with her social activities.
My favourite place in Somerset is Haddon Wood, Alhampton. This is because it is a wonderful community woodland with different areas to explore. It is both peaceful and engaging. We love to visit throughout the year to see how the woods develop during each season.”
Our Marketing and Philanthropy Team
Laura Blake, Philanthropy Director
Laura joined the Foundation in January 2019 as Philanthropy Director, with the aim of spearheading the growth of local giving in Somerset.
“I’ve spent 15 years working with some of the UK’s most generous philanthropists, starting my career at Bristol University and moving to some of the UK’s most loved youth charities including Barnardo’s and The Prince’s Trust. I was delighted to move back to the West Country and use my experience to provide high-quality philanthropic advice to local people, businesses and trusts looking to make an impact here in Somerset.
Outside of work, I’m a volunteer for my local park’s Friends Group and am hoping to raise funds to build a much-needed new playground. When I’m not working, I’m kept busy by my energetic young son. I also enjoy weightlifting, walking in the countryside, and going to music festivals with my DJ husband.
My favourite place in Somerset is looking out across the Glastonbury Festival site from the Ribbon Tower and taking in the amazing spectacle of it all. A sight everyone should see at least once in their lives!”
Sue Wheeler, Marketing Manager
Sue re-joined our team in June 2017 as Communications Executive having previously worked with us as Marketing and Events Executive in 2014. In 2023 she was promoted to Marketing Manager.
“I started my working life running my busy retail shop The Gosh Trading Company Ltd. in Wells, before dealing with all manner of public enquiries at the Glastonbury Festival office as a full-time all-year-round employee. I then worked as Marketing Officer at Strode College, before returning to the Foundation. I also organise the Emerging Talent Competition for Glastonbury Festival, and enjoy working at WOMAD festival every year, co-ordinating the Artists’ Liaison information area backstage.
Outside of work I enjoy watching live shows and stand-up comedy, films, fine dining, visiting warm countries during the British winter, and the occasional cider down the pub with friends. My two cats, Penny and Doris, allow me to provide them with sustenance and shelter. One of my favourite places in Somerset is the Bishop’s Palace gardens in Wells. I also love the Wells Comedy Festival, and once a year in mid to late June, a little village down the road called Pilton is transformed into a city – aka Glastonbury Festival. I’m passionate about live events and love how that shared experience brings people together, and the feeling of unity it creates. It’s magical!”
Fiona Foster, Philanthropy Manager
Fiona joined the Foundation in March 2023 as Philanthropy Manager. She has over 25 years’ experience of fundraising in the third sector with a variety of organisations.
“After studying Biology at Bristol University, I worked within a research department at Musgrove Park Hospital before moving to London to begin my career in the third sector. I returned to my hometown of Taunton to raise a family after working for national charities YouthNet and The Conservation Volunteers. I joined Somerset Community Foundation to help grow local giving to strengthen communities across Somerset, having previously worked with the fundraising team at Somerset Wildlife Trust.
Outside of work I’m kept busy looking after two teenage children and our pet Labrador, Bolt, who is something of a celebrity locally! Weekends are spent in my son’s dojo as he perfects his judo randori and unwinding by hitting the treadmill. With over 50 miles of coastline to explore here in Somerset, the whole family (especially Bolt!) love nothing more than spending time together discovering new beaches, whenever we can.
My favourite place in Somerset…We are spoilt for choice, with literally something for everyone: beaches, hills, shopping, history, wildlife – the list goes on. So, I think my favourite place has to be the ‘Welcome to Somerset’ sign on the M5 – because that’s when you know you’re home!”
Matt Chittock, Communications Executive (freelance)
Matt joined the team in June 2023 to support on the delivery of comms.
“I’m a charity comms specialist who loves sharing stories about inspiring organisations in Somerset. I’m also a trained journalist with over 15 years of experience working for brilliant causes on all kinds of projects, online and off.
Outside of work you’ll find me happily reading on the sofa or being ordered about by either my daughter or cat. Always up for a grammar chat and have strong feelings about Oxford commas.”
Our Operations and Finance Team
Mary Hancock, Operations Director
Mary joined SCF in May 2013, and as Operations Director she leads on policy, financial reporting, procurement, and human resources.
“I’ve always had a genuine passion for management and leadership in the charity sector. After earning a BSW from the University of Texas at Austin, I practised social work for several years before moving to London to pursue a master’s degree in human rights law. I’m passionate about creating a healthy and safe working environment that promotes staff wellbeing alongside delivering the mission.
While in London, I married my English husband before settling down in his home county, where we’re raising two young boys, renovating our home and attempting to tame our unruly allotment and apples trees. My favourite places in Somerset are the many historic homes, buildings and gardens throughout the county, but you’ll truly find me in my element rooting through a car boot sale or bidding on bargains at the local auction house.”
Praseeda Pramodh, Finance Manager
Praseeda Pramodh joined the team in 2020 to manage our finances.
“I completed my ACCA in England and hold a Masters degree from India. I moved to the west country from Basingstoke in 2010. I’ve worked for Sherborne boys school, Debenhams Foundation and Capita.
My husband and I have raised my daughter in Somerset. I am involved with my local wildlife group and enjoy long walks, gardening and Indian classical music. I love going to the Indian Classical Music shows in the west country.
My favourite places in Somerset are Glastonbury and Swell Woods close to Langport. I love Glastonbury town for its quirkiness and up the Tor for that ‘on top of the world’ feeling. Swell woods is quite calming and you can watch the herons in their nests. And the bluebells in May make it a special place.”
Carolyn Phimister, Finance Administrator
Carolyn joined SCF in 2019 as Finance and Office Administrator.
“I’m originally from West Yorkshire, and studied business at university in Lancashire. Previously, I worked for the Citizens Advice for 12 years. I moved to Somerset in 2008 with my husband and two sons and I’ve held financial roles both within education and the church of England.
Outside of work, I love spending time with family and friends – especially if films, comedy and food are involved. My favourite places to be in Somerset involve dog walking on the Mendip Hills and the Somerset levels but most of all standing on Glastonbury Tor watching the sun go down. I never tire of those views.”
Michael Samuel MBE, Chair
Michael built up the Mayborn Group, which specialises in baby products, over the course of thirty years. Michael is also a committed philanthropist and has supported charities through his family foundations for several decades. He is Chair of the Anna Freud Centre, a charity focusing on research and advocacy about mental health of young people, founded and Chairs Civic, a not-for-profit initiative seeking to increase the impact of charities in the UK and abroad, and is co-founder and Chair of Full Fact, a charity set up to check and correct facts reported in the news.
Along with his wife and four children and grandchildren, he has developed a strong affinity and attachment to Somerset since acquiring a dairy farm and settling in the county more than twenty years ago. Michael has been a supporter of SCF for more than 10 years.
Michelle Ferris, Treasurer
Michelle is the Director of Charities and Not-for-Profit at Albert Goodman LLP, a large regional accountancy firm based in Taunton. She was brought up in Somerset, and after spending some time away she returned to the county where she qualified as a Chartered Accountant with Albert Goodman, specialising in charities for the last 8 years. Michelle is also currently a trustee at Refugee Aid from Taunton, and in her spare time – outside spending time with her two young children – she is an international basketball official.
Chris is a Chartered Public Finance Accountant and a former Business Services Director of Wessex Water plc. The majority of his career has been spent in the UK but he has worked in North, Central and South America and been the Chief Financial Officer of the global technology company Achillies Group. He is a former Chairman of Somerset College of Art and Technology and board member and trustee of BIBIC the Somerset based brain injury charity. He is currently advising Pixieme.org a community marketplace for independent businesses and is a trustee of a number of local charities.
Helen has worked with children and families all her career, first as a social worker and then as Assistant Director for Children’s Social Care. Helen has run services in Education and Health and has spent 5 years as a Peer Reviewer for the Local Government leading on Early Years Reviews and taking part in safeguarding and Special Educational Needs Reviews.
Helen has run a range of community groups and served as a committee member for Home-Start.
Angela is CEO of Citizens Advice South Somerset and has over 30 years of experience leading and managing independent charities and not for profit companies. She has a master’s degree in Voluntary Sector Management from the CASS Business School and has represented the UK as a charity leader through the British Council’s Active Citizens programme and a Department for International Development programme based on St Helena, which is a small UK overseas territory in the South Atlantic.
Angela is a qualified adult tutor and coach and a passionate advocate of learning and personal development for those working in the voluntary and community sector.
She is a very keen crafter and a huge fan of international films and both of her interests are inspired by a love of stories from around the world.
Kokila currently facilitates activities with learning disabled adults, having spent nine years supporting adults with autism. Kokila has taught a broad range of subjects and ages for over 30 years. Kokila is a qualified mediator (excepting family and children).
Her Trusteeship with Somerset Community Foundation is Kokila’s second significant role working with a community-focused charity, having previously been President of Bodali Seva Mandal from 2016-2018. Kokila moved from the village of Bodali in Gujrat, India, aged 3 and has since lived in Leicestershire, Essex, Hampshire, Berkshire, Surrey and now resides in Somerset. She has taught as a supply teacher in many places, including Somerset, North Somerset and Bristol.
Her time off is spent swimming, walking, reading and keeping in touch with family and friends.
John Lyon CB
John Lyon CB has spent much of his professional life working in the public sector, mostly in the senior civil service in central government. On leaving the civil service he served the House of Commons overseeing its code of conduct for members of parliament. He also has experience in the charity sector from working as the director of strategy in a research institute in Cambridge and as an elected governance volunteer with the National Trust. He has been connected to the Sedgemoor area for some 30 years, where he currently enjoys been taken for lively walks by his border collie.
Bruce has over 40 years experience in the investment industry; he worked as an institutional (pension fund) manager at Mercury Asset Management before moving to Perpetual, the retail fund group, where he was a director of the operating company. Following a family move back to the West Country, Bruce became chairman of an Exeter-based wealth management firm and he joined JM Finn following the sale of that business. Bruce has an MA in Modern Languages (Cambridge). Bruce and his wife Sophy have four children and home is a working farm on Exmoor, which consumes pretty much all the family’s free time.
Lucy Nelson DL
Lucy founded Tommy’s, a national charity funding medical research into the reasons why babies are born too soon and too small, stillbirth, miscarriage, poor foetal growth and prematurity. They raise around £4 million each year. She was Tommy’s CEO for 10 years, a Director of Mark Birley Associates for 20 years and a Director of the Catholic Building Society. Lucy was also a Governor for 20 years and finally Chairman of Governors for Port Regis school in Dorset. Lucy was High Sheriff of Somerset 2015-16 and is now a Deputy Lieutenant. She is particularly interested in mental health and raised a fund for four mental health charities in Somerset during her year as High Sheriff. She has lived in Penselwood, Somerset for 20 years and runs a small stud, breeding horses for eventing and dressage.
Louisa was Vice-Chair of the South West Committee for BBC Children in Need where she advised on which projects should receive grants. She has held a number of roles in the public and voluntary sector including Funding Development Officer for the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux and Principal Policy Advisor at the South West Regional Assembly. She started her career working with the Somerset Training and Enterprise Council, developing partnerships with local organisations to promote regeneration projects. She has also worked at the European Parliament in Brussels and is a shareholder in a local media research business. She set up and managed a Pre-School and is a qualified hockey coach. She has lived in Somerset for many years, is a member of the Somerset Woodturners and plays the cello.
David worked in Local Government for almost forty years. He qualified as a Social Worker in 1979 and has worked in all aspects of children’s and adults services. He was Director of Children’s services in Somerset until 2010 and then Director of Peoples Services in Shropshire until 2013. David is a Governor at a local school and also Bridgwater and Taunton College. He works as a freelance trainer and teaches English as a foreign language.
Tim was a partner and chairman of Clarke Willmott LLP (retired in April 2023), where he had worked since 1978, specialising in property development work. His work brought him into contact with Somerset businesses and landowners and he also carried out legal work for a number of charities during his career.
He is Chair of trustees of the Albemarle charity and a member and former church secretary of Taunton Baptist Church.
Giles is a trainee Investment Manager at Rathbones Brothers plc, where he supports the discretionary management of investment portfolios on behalf of private clients, trusts and charities. Giles is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investment, holds a Diploma in Investment Compliance and is pursuing the Chartered Wealth Manager Qualification. Despite his young age, he already has a wealth of experience spanning across legal, financial and regulatory fields, having graduated from the University of Birmingham with a Law degree and spent over two years in London at a top 5 accountancy and advisory firm, before moving back to his home in Somerset. Giles has lived in Somerset for over 20 years and, during which time, has participated in a plethora of extra-curricular activities and events within the area, giving him first-hand knowledge and experience of Somerset from a more youthful perspective, which he can bring to the Foundation.
Our Patron, President & Vice-Presidents
The support and generosity of our patrons is vital to helping us transform lives across Somerset. Our patrons use their position and spheres of influence to support our work.
Lady Elizabeth Gass DCVO JP
HM Lord-Lieutenant of Somerset, Mohammed Saddiq
Jane Barrie OBE DL
Rt Revd Michael Beasley, The Bishop of Bath and Wells
Lord Cameron of Dillington DL
John Cullum DL
Robert Drewett (The High Sheriff of Somerset 2023/24)
Annie Maw CVO
Peter Wyman CBE DL
Angela Yeoman OBE
Somerset Community Foundation Associates
Our associates provide us with flexible and specialist support on specific projects:
Mark Cotton – Social Investment Consultant. Email: email@example.com