A ninety year old great grandmother from Kirkdale received a 90th birthday surprise when Riverside Chairman, Max Steinberg CBE, dropped by with a bouquet of flowers and a quick bout of “Strictly Come Dancing”.
Eva Cruikshank was born in 1928 in Walton, just three miles from the site of Riverside’s first housing project in Swan Street, Old Swan, the very same year.
Eva has lived in her Riverside retirement apartment at Fountain Court for 25 years and was delighted by the surprise visit. It was just one of the ways the housing association, which also turned 90 this year, has been marking its special birthday.
“Riverside has grown massively since its beginnings in the city as Liverpool Improved Houses and we think reaching the grand age of 90 is something to celebrate. Most of all we wanted this to be a year of giving back to our customers and communities” said Mr Steinberg, who is well known in the city as Chief Executive of economic regeneration agency Liverpool Vision.
“Earlier this year I was delighted to launch our Ladders of Aspiration programme, through which Riverside customers and their families can bid for cash grants to help them achieve the job of their dreams.”
Funded by the Riverside Foundation charity, it offers tenants funding of up to £3,000 to pay for training or a course to gain a professional qualification, course materials or support a new business venture.
Liverpool dad Paul Coggins is one of the first Riverside customers on his way to a brighter future, thanks to the Ladders of Aspiration fund. The 40-year old father of three lost his job a few months ago after working in the retail sector for 10 years.
Deciding to make it a positive turning point, he set his sights on a maintenance role on the railways but needed to take a health and safety course costing several hundred pounds before he could apply, money he has now successfully bid for from Riverside.
“I’m over the moon to get this funding as it means I can now work in a job I really want to do” says Paul from Walton, who has been a Riverside tenant for seven years. “It feels like a lifeline for me and it’s helped get me out of a rut as I feared I’d end up back in retail and not enjoying it.”
Paul has found temporary work in a warehouse while he waits to start the course in January. “Having this qualification will open so many doors for me” he added “It’s basically a job for life working on the railways with lots of work opportunities. I enjoy manual work and being outside, so working in this environment is ideal and I’ll earn good money to support my family. I’m grateful for Riverside’s support and giving me this opportunity to change careers.”
Also benefiting from the fund is Mosissa Hunde Kenei from Anfield who has been a Riverside tenant for four years. The 34-year-old recently graduated from John Moore’s University after studying a BSc Honours in Applied Mathematics, but needs a professional statistical qualification to work in his chosen career.
Mosissa, a dad-of-three, said: “I’m looking for work where I can use my applied maths degree. I’ve been applying for statistical analyst assistant and finance analyst jobs, but employers ask for a professional certificate. Having this professional qualification will open up more job opportunities for me, so I’m really pleased to be accepted and thankful to Riverside for the funding.”
Meanwhile Riverside staff have also been celebrating the birthday by making use of the two volunteering days they are encouraged to take each year. This has seen teams of colleagues from all over the country taking part in a whole range of activities from tidying elderly tenants’ gardens to redecorating community centres or cleaning up whole estates.
“Marking our 90th milestone is a tribute to those who helped found Riverside all those years ago” said Mr Steinberg. “I was delighted to welcome some of our tenants to Westminster recently for a parliamentary reception hosted by Luciana Berger MP and dropping by to wish Eva a happy 90th birthday has been the icing on the cake.”