MORTON in the Community Trust charity boss Brian McLaughlin believes passionately in the power of football to change lives and inspire change.

Greenock Telegraph:

For our People of Inverclyde feature this week we speak to the 38-year-old Greenock man who heads up the award-winning enterprise which leaves no-one behind.

As chief executive, Brian is in charge of delivering projects, support groups and schemes that reach out to more than 1,400 people every week.

From grassroots coaching for kids to helping people back to work, as well as Football Memories for dementia sufferers and the latest Warm Hand of Friendship drop in at the Main Stand at Cappielow, there is something for everyone.

Greenock Telegraph:

But on a personal level Brian is driven to make a difference by the tragedies of losing his mum to meningitis when he was 25, and then six years later his dad to cancer.

Brian said: "I honestly believe football, especially in this country, has the power to change lives. It can make a positive difference and makes a real impact.

"I passionately believe that and it motivates everything that we do here.

"I want to make sure that for anyone who engages with the trust and comes along to any one of our groups, it is the best day of their week.

"I want to make sure that we make that difference. That is our message going forward."

Brian was raised in Braeside, a pupil of St Gabriel's Primary and then St Columba's High.

Football was always a massive part of his life, and he ended up going on to study sports development at West Scotland University after completing an HNC at James Watt College.

Along the way he was involved in community coaching with Inverclyde Leisure, Active Schools and also with the Morton Academy.

He was brought up in a close knit family with dad Brian, mum Caroline and sister Lynsey, 40, who he is incredibly close to.

Greenock Telegraph:

In 2011 the family was devastated by the death of Caroline who died aged just 53 after falling ill with meningitis.

In the years after her death Brian took on charity challenges, determined to make a difference in her memory.

Then in 2017 Brian and Lynsey lost dad Brian, aged 56, to thyroid cancer.

Brian said: "I think when you have two massive things like that in your life, it changes how you look at life. Life is short, you have to live every day and make the best of it.

"I wanted to do something positive.

"It made me think about what I wanted to do and it made me go and try different things."

In recent years Brian has been a huge supporter of the Ardgowan Hospice.

He said: "Before my dad died I had no idea really about the hospice and the incredible work they do. Until you are in that situation.

"I feel very passionately about supporting charities like the hospice.

"We try to do that through Morton in the Community as well helping Inverclyde charities including Children in Poverty Inverclyde."

Brian joined the team at Morton in the Community Trust in 2013, rising through the ranks.

Five years ago he took over as chief executive when Warren Hawke moved on.

He now heads up a total of 25 projects, a staff of 13 and they have 120 volunteers.

Brian is incredibly proud of his team which now includes Lewis McEwan, who is involved in marketing and social media with the trust. 

He added: "The likes of Lewis, I have coached Lewis since he was a wee boy and it is great to see him doing so well and he is now part of the team. That is the kind of opportunities we offer."

Run from Cappielow, they use the magic of Morton to make a difference.

One of the most successful groups is Football Memories where people with dementia and their loved ones come into the sanctuary of the Main Stand.

Other groups here also include the Warm Hand of Friendship drop-in with soup and lunch.

Brian said: "Morton is a real community club, Greenock is a one-club town and I think the Trust reflects that. I think it means a lot to people when they walk into Cappielow.

"Cappielow stirs a lot of memories in people, people remember coming to games with their dad or loved ones.

"It is like me, I went to the football with my dad."

Brian lives in Elderslie with his wife Alison, whom he married last year.

After celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the community trust last March, Brian is continuing to build so that it continues to thrive at a time when it is needed more than ever before.

He said: "We are facing challenges, there is so much need out there following the pandemic and now we have the cost of living crisis. There are so many more people needing support.

"For us it is about how to best use the resources we have to help people in the best way we can."