Smile For Life’s Chief Executive Paula Gascoigne is a contender for Heart Of The Community and Leadership in the 2015 North East Woman Entrepreneur of the Year (WIN) Awards.
Paula helped set up the charity in 2007 – the vision being to support children and young people with disabilities and learning difficulties, supplying equipment and experiences to help them achieve their full potential to live a happy life.
Since then it has grown to include three coffee shops run by young people with disabilities, giving them work experience, confidence, skills and to break down barriers within the wider community.
Ms Gascoigne said: “To be shortlisted for these awards means everything that we have done as a charity is being recognised. It is also raising the profile of the children and young people that desperately need help. We are a small local charity with big ambition and an even bigger heart and these young people are at the heart of everything that we do.
“The Café Beams bring so many people together and allow the community to see just how capable, hard working and inspiring these young people are. It is breaking down those barriers and showing people that they have so much to give. It is scary that 94 per cent of youngsters with a disability do not go on to supported employment when they leave school and we hope to change that.”
Paula was nominated for Heart Of The Community for the work the charity does in the region and also Leadership for her own involvement with Smile For Life as Chief Executive.
She added: “I wouldn’t ask anyone to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself so that means I am usually doing something; whether it’s a zip wire, skydive or Grand Canyon trek, I will try anything to raise money for the charity.
“I love to lead but Smile For Life is very much a team achievement. I believe that we all have different strengths in different areas and it’s about using and celebrating those skills. That is the whole ethos of the charity. We never take anything or anyone for granted here.
“I truly believe to be the best you have to surround yourself with the best people and we have done that. Whether it is the staff, young people, volunteers or supporters, they have all helped to make Smile For Life the success that it is today. We are all very excited about the nominations.”
The North East Women Entrepreneur of the Year Awards will see females from all over the North East come together to celebrate their hard work and achievements of the previous 12 months
The winners will be announced on November 13 at the new Crowne Plaza Hotel, Newcastle.
For more information on Smile For Life or Café Beam go to www.smileforlife.org.uk or 0191 2844166.