They say charity begins at home. And that is certainly true for Caroline Lee.
The 52-year-old met her husband Mark when she was at school. They have two children and live in a converted water tank, which her architect husband helped transform into their home at Hall Bower, under the gaze of Castle Hill, and which is so distinctive it has been featured on television and in the national press.
She works with Mark, a partner in the successful architects and interior designers One17, in Armitage Bridge, and classes herself as “very fortunate”. And it was that which led her to help the company launch a charitable trust.Six years on, and that trust has helped people and organisations in the Huddersfield area to the tune of more than £125,000.
She said: “Money goes in each month from our business and we get about 5% in donations from clients. Traditionally the first appointment with a new client seeking professional advice was free of charge. We now ask for a donation to the Charitable Trust and have been delighted at the enthusiastic response we have had from potential clients to this initiative.
“The priority of the Trust is to improve the lives of people in need and enhance educational opportunities for young people. We want to support the local community as much as possible and have established formal links with a number of schools providing bursaries, workshops, awards and support for extra curricular activities for disadvantaged pupils. With regard to other community groups we give priority to smaller organisations where £500 to £1,000 can make a big difference.
“Since December, 2010, we have donated more than £125,000 to local good causes. In addition we have also given in-kind business support to smaller charities and community groups, and designed numerous posters, banners and flyers free of charge to help with their marketing.
“Money is no good in the bank, it needs to be spent and enjoyed. As long as the business is successful enough, we will continue with the Trust.”
Caroline is very much a local girl. She was born at Holmfirth Maternity Hospital and went to Brockholes Primary School and Honley High School.
At the age of 15, she met Mark, who she would go on to marry. “Mark always wanted to draw and was interested in design, where as I’m a scientist and very organised. We are very different personalities, but seem to work well together.”
Caroline did A levels at Honley and went to college in London where she got an honours degree in Physics at Imperial College. She then went to do a PGCE course at Homerton College Cambridge.
“While doing that I came home at Christmas and wrote to the Kirklees science advisor to ask if he could let me know of any jobs teaching physics in Kirklees.
“He asked to see me in the Christmas holidays, sent me for an interview at Shelley High School and I began teaching there in the summer as soon as I finished college.”
Caroline taught there for four years full time before son Matthew was born. She went part time two days a week until the birth of daughter Katie a year later.
“I was then at home with them both and I wouldn’t have missed that time for the world.
“I was the first of our friends to have children and wondered if it would be a culture shock being at home after working full-time, but it wasn’t. I loved it and was at home with the children until they were both in junior school.”
Both children went to Brockholes Primary and when the school needed supply teachers Caroline was asked if she could help.
“I ended up teaching there for three years doing a job share. Then when my daughter left primary school I left with her.”
By then her husband was a partner at One17. He had joined the company when it was called the Arthur Quarmby Partnership in Huddersfield. When Arthur retired it became AQP, and later One17. The name is a nod to the past. A is the first letter, and Q is the 17th.
“We extended the mortgage on our first house to buy into the partnership when Mark was only 28.
“We now live in The Round House, originally a water tank which we bought from Yorkshire Water in 1992 and converted into our family home.
“We were two and a half years on site, and were very hands on with the conversion in order to make it affordable. After we moved in Mark used the house a lot for marketing the business. We had many dinner parties for clients, and numerous photo shoots for magazines and television.
“We opened the house for National Heritage weekend in 1996 and took a collection for the NSPCC. As it was so successful this became an annual garden party that we held for 12 years. ”
By now Caroline was a fixture with One 17.
“When I first joined One 17 I worked with the graphics department developing bespoke educational resources. We now have a unique range of parenting books that we publish under the brand name ‘Caring for Kids’.
“I am still involved in this part of the business, but as our children have got older - and need me less - I have spent more time in the office and become more involved in the business as a whole. I now help with promotional events and the general organisation of things within the office, including recently being involved with the photo shoot of our new ‘Dyehouse’ furniture range.”
For Caroline, the varied work keeps her on her toes, but her first love is the Charitable Trust.
“After we had moved to our new offices at Armitage Bridge eight years ago we decided we wanted to do more in terms of being involved with our local community. Hence the One 17 Design Charitable Trust was established in 2010 by my husband Mark, his architectural partners, Kevin Drayton and Stuart Beaumont, and myself.”
The trust doesn’t operate by having an application form.
“Instead we visit to meet the people involved, establish what is needed and how we can help. This process not only improves our awareness, but it also helps us to foster long-term relationships. We particularly like to support keen and enthusiastic volunteers within our community and wanted to ensure that their energies could be spent with the people they are supporting rather than on filling in forms. We have also found that many smaller groups lack the necessary time or expertise to bid for funding from larger trusts and it is this gap that we trying, and succeeding, to fill for our local community.
“It’s been wonderful to see the trust grow. It is very much a team effort and we are all proud of what we have achieved.
“Giving something back feels right. We have met some amazing local people and it’s a pleasure and a privilege to be able to support their work.”
Role: Education co-ordinator/head of community liaison for One 17
Family: Husband Mark and children Matthew, 25, and Katie, 24
Car: Landrover Disovery
Holidays: As a family we love to travel and have enjoyed many exciting trips all over the world, but Switzerland would always be a family favourite
First job: Physics Teacher at Shelley High
School, and before that a student holiday job for 3 years at M&S in Huddersfield.
Best thing about the job? Every day is different and I get to work with lots of great people
Worst thing about the job? I never switch off, but I think that’s a personality trait!
Business tip: Work hard and play hard
Work: Architect and dseign practice
Site: The Dyehouse, Armitage Bridge
Phone: 01484 668000
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Caroline@caringforkids.co.uk