Network Norwich and Norfolk > Regional News > News Archive > 2010 News archive > YMCA name change honours ex-Norfolk chief

YMCA name change honours ex-Norfolk chief 

JohnDrakeHouseBarbara400By Keith Morris

2010: YMCA Norfolk has today (April 29) renamed its Norwich Central YMCA building, next to Norwich Bus Station, in honour of its former chief executive John Drake, whose hard work and inspiration was key to making the £2.9m project become a reality last year.
John retired last summer after more than 30 years service with the Christian charity and received an MBE for services to young people in Norwich and Norfolk in the last Queen’s New Year’s honours list. He also served as Sheriff of Norwich in 2006.
The Norwich Central YMCA, on All Saints Green opposite the Norwich bus station, opened in January 2009 and focuses on serving the accommodation needs of 16-25 year olds, both male and female, from across the county. 
It provides 34 en-suite bedrooms and support facilities including a restaurant, training rooms, communal lounges and a health and education unit. It has been full from the second week of its opening.
JohnDrakeHouseQuartet350A plaque with the new name was unveiled by John in a ceremony on April 29 at John Drake House, hosted by the Bishop of Norwich and attended by civic guests, local MPs, Councillors, YMCA board members, staff and residents.
Paying tribute to John, YMCA Norfolk patrons’ chairman, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, said: “John Drake gave a generation of his life to the YMCA in Norfolk and to a whole generation of the people YMCA helped and supported. The testimony to his work is found in changed lives. 
“But he deserves a physical manifestation of that work too, and the naming of John Drake House links what he did with people with the facilities he provided for the next generation. God bless John.”
Current YMCA chief executive, Tim Sweeting, said: This is a fitting tribute to a great man who has done so much to transform the lives of young people in our County."
After unveiling the plaque, John Drake said: “You do me great honour but the real honour should go to the teams who have helped me over those 31 years with YMCA Norfolk. The years ahead will be challenging but the YMCA has been here in Norfolk for over 150 years and I know it is in safe hands for the future.”
The renaming ceremony coincides with the launch of a £1m public appeal to help complete the finance of the £4.4m project to build 40 self-contained flats as move-on accommodation for homeless young people on Bethel Street in Norwich at the back of the current St Giles Street YMCA building.
Lovell Partnerships Ltd, who built YMCA Central, will demolish an accommodation wing and old sports hall on Bethel Street, at the back of the current YMCA, fronted on St Giles Street, and then construct the new 40-bedroom move-on accommodation buildings.  Work has already started on preparing the site and completion is due by the end of 2011.
If you want to find out more or make a donation, click here, or contact Susie Knights on 07967 741103 or or visit  

Pictured top are John and his wife Barbara Drake with the plaque outside John Drake House and, above, the Bishop of Norwich, Tim Sweeting, John Drake and YMCA chairman, Richard Pennington. Pictures by Julia Holland.


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