Unsung hero donates to Community Trust

Ian Browes is a name familiar to many Spireites, certainly to those who have visited the Community Trust in recent years.

After first coming to games at six years old with his dad, Ian went from supporter, to employee, to volunteer and has been involved with the Chesterfield FC Community Trust’s Memorial Garden since its inception.

A long-time member of the Chesterfield FC Supporters Club, Ian and his partner Jean took on the running of the Young Spireites programme in 2004, taking over from the hard work of Ollie Pardo.

A favourite memory of Ian’s was Rueben Hazell signing his contract in front of the kids at Saltergate in 2005, under the stand in the VIP suite.

Ian also recalls a “brilliant” visit with then-manager Roy McFarland, saying: “Roy came in and rather than sitting on a chair at the front, he plonked himself on the floor with the kids, brought out his England cap and let all the kids try it on.

“They all thought it was amazing and it was something they will never forget – he was great.”

Ian took a part-time role in the Club Shop at Saltergate, helping out in any way he could.

When the club moved to the new stadium, Ian followed and a surge in numbers of Young Spireites members meant a new Christmas Party was launched. Ian remembers: “Mark Crossley was great with sorting out the players for us.

“Ritchie Humphreys was also superb with getting the lads involved but also was great with the kids. I’ve also got to mention Phil Tooley who helped me with the visits and still does to this day.”

As well as running Young Spireites with Jean, Ian immediately got involved with planning to build the Memorial Garden and spent time with John Croot finding the right location.

“We walked around the stadium grounds and looked at the front of the stadium, but we felt that around the recently built Hub was ideal for peaceful reflection as well as having the right space to fit it in,” he explained.

“It was also open seven days a week, which meant it would be always available to people.”

After Jamie Needham presented Ian with plans for the garden, it was clear that funds would need to be raised and Phil Tooley was only too happy to help.

Ian said: “We heard about another club taking two years to raise £20,000 for a statue, so we established a Fundraising Committee in February 2014; with Phil leading, we raised £36,000 in a few months and by July 2014, we had finished the Memorial Garden.

“Paul Leverton of PK Group installed the final piece, the lamp post, just before the official opening the following September.”

Shortly after completion, Ian and John went to a Mercian Regiment meeting at the Town Hall where Ian was greeted by a town official, who said (with a wink and a smile): “Planning permission has been granted for your garden, so you will be able to start work on it.”

It was from that meeting, that the decision was taken to use part of the garden to remember all Chesterfield FC players and officials who lost their lives during wars and ever since, the Trust have held a Remembrance Service in the Memorial Garden.

Since the garden opened, Ian has voluntarily been its gardener. Following the first unveiling of the Dave Blakey plaque by Mrs Cath Blakey, Ian has seen the work of other volunteers, in particular Pete Whiteley, ensuring the garden has grown into a wonderful place to remember loved ones.

Whilst working on the garden, Ian witnessed the launch of the Trust’s Camp Inspire project and he felt compelled to make a donation.

“I saw the children coming down and I had a look online to find out more information about the camp,” he said. “With Covid, we had to cancel some holidays so Jean and I thought it would be good to help some kids get a place at the camp.

“After making the donation, Scott Atkinson took me around to show me the work being done and I instantly felt that this was a worthy cause. I’ve already told Scott I will support it again in the future and I urge anyone who can to support it too.”

Reflecting on Ian’s involvement with the Trust, his friend Phil Tooley said: “Ian, and of course Jean, have been volunteering around the club for as long as I can remember.

“From being on the Supporters Club committee, raising funds for the Memorial Garden and being a trusted member of the Tommy Lee testimonial committee, Ian has always been a reliable person, never at the forefront, but the first to volunteer to do some real work.

“Whether that’s organising Young Spireites parties, complete with players and entertainers, selling raffle tickets, finding sponsors or weeding a flowerbed, Ian’s always first to volunteer and last to go home.

“The club’s recent call for volunteers will be extremely successful if they find just one person as committed as Ian who, along with Jean, deservedly jointly picked up the Fan of the Year award a few seasons ago.”

From everyone at Chesterfield FC Community Trust, we would like to thank you Ian, for your efforts now and over the years and for your generous donation.