Meet the Hearts Behind Cool to be Kind: Essex’s Charitable Champions

Welcome to Cool to be Kind: Making a Difference in Essex

Cool to be Kind is a charitable organisation fuelled by the passion of dedicated volunteers committed to spreading support and kindness throughout the Essex community.

Our Mission since 2015

Since 2015, Cool to be Kind has been making a positive impact, especially for those experiencing homelessness and rough sleeping in the region. Our journey began with the Rucksack Project, initiated in response to the heart-breaking sight of rough sleepers in Chelmsford.

The Rucksack Project focuses on collecting and distributing everyday essentials to the homeless. The local Essex community rallied behind us, demonstrating incredible generosity. In 2016 and 2017, over 300 individuals came forward, donating more than 400 rucksacks filled with clothing and accessories. This overwhelming support is a testament to the unwavering dedication and compassion of our community.

Building on the success of the Rucksack Project, we proudly present the ‘Cool to be Kind’ initiative. Collaborating with other outreach groups, Cool to be Kind goes above and beyond in providing support to those in need. Founded by five passionate volunteers: Marion Booth, Jo Hindley, Kellie Jones, Brian McGovern, and Dan Skeates, all of whom have contribution remains immeasurable.

The original Cool to be Kind team

In 2023, Cool to be Kind has made significant strides toward becoming a fully-fledged charity. We’ve received recognition and accolades for our efforts, working closely with other charitable organisations throughout the Essex area. In 2022, Cool to be Kind launched Street Support Chelmsford, an innovative project serving as an online directory of help and services for vulnerable people in the Chelmsford community. This initiative is designed predominantly (but not exclusively) to assist those facing homelessness or struggling with the rising cost of living.  Street Support Chelmsford has already made a profound impact, positively influencing the lives of many and providing crucial assistance to carers within the Chelmsford and Essex community.

Join Us and Make a Difference

Our growing team of dedicated volunteers continues to make a noticeable difference in the organisation. We remain committed to spreading compassion, kindness, and empathy to those in need. If you’re inspired to join us in making a difference, meet our team and discover how you can get involved in supporting the Cool to be Kind mission today. Together, we can create positive change in the lives of those facing homelessness and rough sleeping in Essex.

Dan Skeates

Co-Founder/Director

Meet Dan, our adventurous and compassionate professional coach at Cool to be Kind! Fuelled by a desire to make a difference, Dan was a founding member of Cool to be Kind after a motorcycle journey to Australia from the UK, which included an accidental climb up the wrong volcano in Indonesia. Whether it’s stepping over rough sleepers or fostering community well-being, Dan is all about action. His knack for strategy and reflection ensures our activities address the needs of the most vulnerable. With a diverse and fun-loving Cool to be Kind team, Dan brings a unique blend of skills to make lives better. In embracing kindness Dan proves it’s not just a mission, it’s a lifestyle!

Joanna Hindley

Co-Founder/Director/Trustee

Meet Joanna, our co-founder, director, and the heart of Cool to be Kind! Back in 2015, she dove headfirst into the world of charity, joining a group of Chelmsford pals who wanted to tackle homelessness. Now, she’s hooked on the joy of making a difference. But that’s not all. Cool to be Kind is like a puzzle, with every team member bringing their unique piece. Joanna loves this mix of personalities and skills.Oh, and did we mention she’s our “rock chick” from a 2000 TV makeover show? She’s got the spirit, the heart, and the style!

Joanna Hindley

Co-Founder/Director/Trustee

Meet Joanna, our co-founder, director, and the heart of Cool to be Kind! Back in 2015, she dove headfirst into the world of charity, joining a group of Chelmsford pals who wanted to tackle homelessness. Now, she’s hooked on the joy of making a difference. But that’s not all. Cool to be Kind is like a puzzle, with every team member bringing their unique piece. Joanna loves this mix of personalities and skills.Oh, and did we mention she’s our “rock chick” from a 2000 TV makeover show? She’s got the spirit, the heart, and the style!

Marion Booth

Co-Founder/Director/Trustee

Meet Marion, our Co-founder, Director, and Trustee at Cool to be Kind. Handling donations and grants, she manages finances for all our outreach needs With a background in supporting the homeless, Marion has been the driving force behind the Chelmsford’s Rucksack Project since its first inception, a success story  that reflects our community’s desire to collectively help those in need. What she personally finds rewarding? Witnessing  how those once in need, now offer  their support to others, says Marion. Her dedication embodies the spirit of kindness that defines Cool to be Kind.

Laura Cool to be Kind Team Member

Laura Neilson

Manager/Consultant

Meet Laura, the powerhouse and organisational maestro at Cool to be Kind. With a vibrant career including stints at Childline and as the Community Fundraising Manager for The National Autistic Society, Laura’s journey has brought her face-to-face with royalty (yes, Princess Anne!) and the iconic Bob Geldof. Whether orchestrating events or championing causes, she’s the force ensuring things not only happen but excel. Off-duty, she’s a cat mom to Lucky-Loo, Lolly-Pops, and Pickle-Pops, her adorable furry sidekicks. Laura’s zest transforms Cool to be Kind into more than a cause she makes it a cool and kind movement.

Laura Neilson

Manager/Consultant

Meet Laura, the powerhouse and organisational maestro at Cool to be Kind. With a vibrant career including stints at Childline and as the Community Fundraising Manager for The National Autistic Society, Laura’s journey has brought her face-to-face with royalty (yes, Princess Anne!) and the iconic Bob Geldof. Whether orchestrating events or championing causes, she’s the force ensuring things not only happen but excel. Off-duty, she’s a cat mom to Lucky-Loo, Lolly-Pops, and Pickle-Pops, her adorable furry sidekicks. Laura’s zest transforms Cool to be Kind into more than a cause she makes it a cool and kind movement.

Laura Cool to be Kind Team Member

Helen Wilkerson

Street Support-Chelmsford Manager/Social Media platform Manager

Meet Helen, the digital dynamo and Street Support Chelmsford Manager at Cool to be Kind! Juggling roles with finesse, she builds and maintains relationships for Street Support Chelmsford, curates our social media presence, and adds a touch of feline flair with her cat, ‘Sultan the Silver Cat.’ Since joining in 2021, Helen’s digital magic has been integral to our mission. She ensures our message of kindness resonates far and wide. While not always on the front line, Helen’s behind-the-scenes wizardry is a vital thread in our tapestry of kindness.

Julia, Cool to be Kind Member

Julia Lacey

Outreach Volunteer/Funds Collection Organiser/Aspiring Trustee

Meet Julia, our ray of sunshine at Cool to be Kind. She’s swapped Essex for Northumberland, where rumour has it, she’s plotting a new chapter of the Cool to be Kind initiative. Julia, a powerhouse in our team, has tackles everything from food running to coordinating outreach groups , all with patience and outstanding efficiency. Her fluency in German? Just another superpower in her kindness arsenal!

Julia Lacey

Outreach Volunteer/Funds Collection Organiser/Aspiring Trustee

Meet Julia, our ray of sunshine at Cool to be Kind. She’s swapped Essex for Northumberland, where rumour has it, she’s plotting a new chapter of the Cool to be Kind initiative. Julia, a powerhouse in our team, has tackles everything from food running to coordinating outreach groups , all with patience and outstanding efficiency. Her fluency in German? Just another superpower in her kindness arsenal!

Julia, Cool to be Kind Member

Julia Best

Outreach Founder & Manager/Outreach Promoter and Frontline Volunteer

Meet Julia Best, the compassionate force behind “Warm Hearts for Cold Hands” and a dedicated member of “Cool to be Kind.” In her teenage years, Julia volunteered three times a week in a hospital, finding joy in reading, chatting to elderly patients. Today, she’s the heartbeat of our Chelmsford community, as every week she transforms into a beacon of warmth, distributing clothing, tents, and sleeping bags to those in need in Chelmsford and beyond. With a familiar face and an attentive ear, Julia is the frontline embodiment of what Cool to be Kind stands for. In the face of darkness, she’s a radiant beam of light for those in need. Julia, our unsung superhero in the heart of compassion!

Sarah, Cool to be kind Team member

Sarah Roberts

Communications and PR specialist

Meet Sarah, our communications maestro at Cool to be Kind! With a knack for crafting compelling stories and managing our digital presence, Sarah’s PR expertise is driving our impactful initiatives. Her volunteer journey includes a stint with Leaders of Tomorrow International in Cameroon, where she not only in lead the communications department but also managed a global team, because tackling big challenges is second nature to her. Oh, and did we mention her unusual hobby? She’s also learning how to fly! Drawn to Cool to be Kind’s heartfelt mission, Sarah counts on reaching new heights of kindness, literally!

Sarah Roberts

Communications and PR specialist 

Meet Sarah, our communications maestro at Cool to be Kind! With a knack for crafting compelling stories and managing our digital presence, Sarah’s PR expertise is driving our impactful initiatives. Her volunteer journey includes a stint with Leaders of Tomorrow International in Cameroon, where she not only in lead the communications department but also managed a global team, because tackling big challenges is second nature to her. Oh, and did we mention her unusual hobby? She’s also learning how to fly! Drawn to Cool to be Kind’s heartfelt mission, Sarah counts on reaching new heights of kindness, literally!

Sarah, Cool to be kind Team member

Jean Hunter

Outreach Volunteer

Meet Jean, our dedicated food and essentials gatherer at Cool to be Kind! Jean collects items from various sources like M&S, Greggs, and more, delivering them to places in need such as Sanctus, Pantries, Chess, the Women’s Refuge, and homes requesting assistance. Her journey started in the early days of Covid in 2019. With a car and extra time n her hands, Jean found a meaningful role that has become a fulfilling routine, dedicating up to three evenings a week to making a positive impact. At Cool to be Kind, Jean embodies compassion and turns challenging times into opportunities for kindness!

Charles Cooper

Volunteer-Rucksack Project 

Meet Charles a dedicated team member at Cool to be Kind. With a heart for community service, he has experience with settling refugees, embodying compassion and support. In tough times, he values in the value of community collective efforts and believes collaboration brings out the best in everyone. Proud to contribute to building a stronger, supportive community!

Charles

Volunteer-Rucksack Project

Meet Charles a dedicated team member at Cool to be Kind. With a heart for community service, he has experience with settling refugees, embodying compassion and support. In tough times, he values in the value of community collective efforts and believes collaboration brings out the best in everyone. Proud to contribute to building a stronger, supportive community!

Henry Westwood

Outreach Volunteer

Henry has dabbled in various volunteering and fundraising events, his commitment to a formal charity or community group was sparked by the manageable opportunities offered by Cool to be Kind/Warm Hearts for Cold Hands. A master of navigating the unexpected, Henry once found himself bobbing in the sea off Croatia after a boat adventure went awry, proof that he can handle challenges with a sense of humour and resilience. Henry sees his role in the Cool to be Kind community group as an ideal fit for several reasons: a great cause, a wonderful team, and the flexibility that allows individuals to contribute in a way that aligns with their capacity. Henry is now weaving his own story into the tapestry of kindness we aim to create.

Chelsie, Cool to be Kind team member

Chelsie Hadley

Volunteer-Rucksack Project

Meet Chelsie, contributing passionately to our mission! Currently involved in establishing links for Cool to be Kind with a GP Practice aimed at family welfare,  Chelsie is also focussed on the Rucksack Project. Chelsie’s dedication has seen her in roles at Remus Horse Sanctuary and the Summer Reading Challenge.  Not just your average volunteer, Chelsie once cooked up a whopping 86 kg of curry for charity, earning her team a spicy, permanent sage leaf tattoo! At Cool to be Kind, Chelsie finds a community committed to addressing challenges and putting the individuals they support at the forefront with kindness the heart of change!

Chelsie Hadley

Volunteer-Rucksack Project 

Meet Chelsie, contributing passionately to our mission! Currently involved in establishing links for Cool to be Kind with a GP Practice aimed at family welfare,  Chelsie is also focussed on the Rucksack Project. Chelsie’s dedication has seen her in roles at Remus Horse Sanctuary and the Summer Reading Challenge.  Not just your average volunteer, Chelsie once cooked up a whopping 86 kg of curry for charity, earning her team a spicy, permanent sage leaf tattoo! At Cool to be Kind, Chelsie finds a community committed to addressing challenges and putting the individuals they support at the forefront with kindness the heart of change!

Chelsie, Cool to be Kind team member
Giovani, Cool to be Kind Team Member

Giovanni Reniero

Web Maintenance/ Photography

Meet Giovanni, our digital and photography virtuoso at Cool to be Kind! Giovanni wears many hats, from maintaining our website to capturing the heart of our mission through his lens. He dove into this journey without fully knowing what he was getting into, but he quickly realised the profound impact the organisation makes, and he’s delighted to be part of a team that genuinely changes lives. Embracing the diverse personalities within the team, Giovanni finds satisfaction in being helpful in any way possible. When he’s not navigating the digital landscape, you might catch him navigating the open road as a keen motorbike rider, because bringing kindness knows no speed limit!

Giovani, Cool to be Kind Team Member

Giovanni Reniero

Web Maintenance/Photography

Meet Giovanni, our digital and photography virtuoso at Cool to be Kind! Giovanni wears many hats, from maintaining our website to capturing the heart of our mission through his lens. He dove into this journey without fully knowing what he was getting into, but he quickly realised the profound impact the organisation makes, and he’s delighted to be part of a team that genuinely changes lives. Embracing the diverse personalities within the team, Giovanni finds satisfaction in being helpful in any way possible. When he’s not navigating the digital landscape, you might catch him navigating the open road as a keen motorbike rider, because bringing kindness knows no speed limit!