The CEO of Great Western Air Ambulance Charity (GWAAC), providers of the air ambulance service for the people of Bath and North East Somerset and the surrounding area, is set to retire at the end of July.
John Christensen helped to set up the charity in 2008, after it was recognised that an air ambulance service was required to serve the region.
The cause, which undertook 1735 missions in 2016, relies on the support of the local community to meet its £2.6million annual running cost as it receives no day to day funding from the government or the National Lottery.
During his time as CEO the charity has achieved a number of key milestones, notably successfully meeting a fundraising target to upgrade their existing helicopter in 2014, thanks to a million pound grant from the LIBOR fund.
In 2016 the charity also received planning consent to build a new air base at a site in Almondsbury, South Gloucestershire, securing the future of the service by allowing them to move from their current base located next to the old Filton airfield.
Speaking of his time as GWAAC CEO, John said: “There have been some really big highlights over the last nine years, but for me the biggest achievement was when we received the confirmation that we had received planning consent for the new air base, which is due to be completed by August 2018.
“We had an uphill struggle to find and get permission for a site in the right location, and I was absolutely delighted when we received permission to go ahead as it means that the charity can continue to save lives and serve the people of our region for many years to come.
“In addition, I am also extremely proud to be able to leave the charity in such a financially stable position. When I started, we were in a hand to mouth situation where it was touch and go whether we could fly the helicopter on a daily basis.
“Since those early days, the charity has grown and flourished, thanks to the support of some amazing volunteers, our charity team, our trustees, the crew that work at our air base, the NHS clinical team and of course not forgetting all of the individuals who have fundraised for us.
I cannot thank them enough as they have all helped us get to where we are today.
“Although I am retiring from my position as CEO, I will continue to work with the charity as a consultant, helping to project manage the move to the new air base.
“Whilst I do plan to enjoy some much needed rest and relaxation, I would also love to take on a role as a charity trustee to be able to share my knowledge and experience with another cause – watch this space!”
At the start of August, Anna Perry will take over the role of CEO from John. Anna started her career in the public sector before moving into charity management, and also worked at a senior level for a national learning disability charity before taking up the post of Chief Executive with a social care charity.
Anna has already spent some time with GWAAC in preparation for her new role, and said: “I have learnt so much about the charity over the last few months, and can’t wait to get started. GWAAC has a great team of staff and supporters, and I’m really looking forward to working for such a worthwhile cause which helps so many people.”