Celebrate the Mandarin Oriental team’s big hearts – and share in our good fortune

A wise man once said that “misfortune nobly born is good fortune.”

I quoted Juvenal at the Worshipful Company of Innholders dinner, last week; now I’m referencing Marcus Aurelius. I wonder how you say ‘get me’, in Latin?

When a fire broke out at her hotel this summer, just one week after it had unveiled a multimillion-pound refurbishment, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park GM Amanda Hyndman must have wondered what she had done to deserve such misfortune. That the fire struck two days into Amanda’s stewardship of the hotel only added insult to injury.

“It’s at times like this that you discover the great pride and loyalty the staff have in the hotel,” she told The Caterer at the time. “There has been a real ‘can do’ spirit amongst everyone. The London Fire Brigade has been amazing and we have had tremendous support from our neighbours with hampers arriving from Harrods and hotels such as the Berkeley, Bulgari and  Jumeirah being so incredibly generous.”

Demonstrating a stoicism that Marcus Aurelius would have applauded, and humbled by the support they received, Amanda and her team quickly decided to turn a negative into a positive.

In days, they had launched FANtastic London, a charitable initiative that aims to thank their local community for its support and care after the fire.

FANtastic London is deploying 400 of the hotel’s workforce to support charities and organisations active or based in the capital, as repairs to the hotel continue. Amanda estimates as much as 40,000 working hours will be donated before the property’s reopening, later this year.

Beneficiaries of the scheme include Walking With The Wounded, Age UK, Thrive Battersea Garden Project, Oxfam, the London Fire Brigade, the Felix Project – and Hospitality Action.

Each week, volunteers Ksenia (pictured with HA’s Astrid Wears-Taylor) and Malin spend a day at our Farringdon office, supporting our fundraising and grant-giving efforts.

And, this week, a crack team of envelope-stuffers will converge on our boardroom to help despatch the Autumn edition of our Golden Friends newsletter.

From a terribly difficult situation, Amanda and her management team have found a way to galvanise their workforce, give them valuable life experiences, and help further the work of many good causes.

It’s been our good fortune at HA to benefit from the altruism shown by the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, and for this we’re hugely grateful.

The hotel’s support of HA continues next Thursday, 20 September, when Amanda and her team host a reception on the Serpentine Solar Boat, Hyde Park, in aid of us.

If you’re free, we’d love you to join us. Tickets are £95 per person. Please email mlewis@hospitalityaction.org.uk if you’d like to help celebrate a noble and philanthropic initiative over a glass or two of fizz.

A shout-out for the women behind Hospitality Action’s work

Today is International Women’s Day, which makes it an opportune moment to say thank you to some of the women who help or have helped Hospitality Action (HA) remain a force for good in UK hospitality, 180 years after its inception.

In the spirit of an Oscars acceptance speech, I hope you’ll forgive me if I’ve forgotten anyone …

Let’s start with Penny Moore. Penny was Chief Executive of HA for thirteen years. When she joined the charity, it supported some 500 beneficiaries a year, and its turnover was around £750k. By the time of her departure last December, Penny had grown these numbers to 2000 and £1.7m, respectively.

A further 100,000 current and former hospitality industry employees now receive help through the employee assistance care programme (EAP) Penny established. The confidential service offers advice and support on a range of issues including health and wellbeing, working life and financial matters through telephone and online services, and face-to-face counselling.

Penny’s other legacy was the fantastic team at HA’s HQ in Farringdon. Take a bow, Astrid, Giuliana and Maria on the fundraising desk; Laura, Tonia, Lucy and Jenny on the grants desk; Camilla and Ellie, our EAP team; and Cathie and Neslihan, who together ensure the HA engine keeps purring. Let’s not forget Dawn Holding, our eyes and ears on the ground in the Northwest. And of course, no list of influential team members would be complete without reference – and deference – to Lesley Gardner, who served HA for approaching 40 years and received a well-deserved MBE for her efforts.

Let’s raise a toast to trustees and committee members past and present. Sue Harrison, no longer a trustee but still a staunch supporter; Unilever Food Solution’s tremendously supportive Hazel Detsiny; Amanda Afiya, the doyenne of UK hospitality trade media and now chairing a fundraising committee that’s supported by the AA’s Giovanna Grossi, Bronwyn Groves from the Sky Hotel team, Nicky Hancock of Sauce Communications and ACT Clean’s Gillian Thomson.

I’ll doff my hat to just two volunteers, on behalf of the thousands of women who’ve given up precious time for HA. Thank you Liz Smith-Mills, an HA guardian member and tireless volunteer, and Denise Haugh, subject of a recent blog and a living HA legend.

Finally, huge thanks to just a few of our industry champions:

  • Angela Hartnett, who wore the cuts and bruises of domestic violence for our hard-hitting awareness campaign
  • Northcote’s Lisa Goodwin-Allen, instrumental in the hotel’s raising funds of £65k, this year
  • Kate Levin at The Capital Hotel, who hosts Golden Friends lunches and champions our EAP
  • Country Range Foods‘ Coral Rose, now nearing the £25k fundraising target she set herself last year
  • Dukes Hotel‘s wonderful Deborah Dhugga, who always supports us via the London 10k Run and has even jumped out of a plane for us
  • The Georgian House Hotel‘s Serena von der Heyde, who last year ran 100 miles around the run round the Lake District for us
  • Sally Beck at London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel, a huge HA advocate
  • Lorraine Wood for years of support at Arena lunches and dinners
  • Kate Mortimer of Olleco, corporate supporters of HA to the tune of £90k and counting
  • and Sue Williams from Whatley Manor, an amazing and active supporter.

Heartfelt thanks to you all!