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December 2021 – January 2022 | News

New life for the humble pallet

New life for the humble pallet

A Rotary club in Surrey has won a local award for its innovative lockdown fundraising activities, including a particularly successful fundraising campaign.

17Rotarians in Surrey have collected a Covid Hero’s Award from their local MP for their innovative and practical approach to fund-raising during lockdown.

Haslemere Rotary was forced to jettison its traditional fund-raising methods during the pandemic.


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So, at various times, the club set up three Rotary-branded pop-up shops in the town centre, backed by grants of £5,000.

“After 85 years of Rotary in our town, this was the first time we had a visible presence in the centre of our community,” explained Mike O’Neil, Past President of the club. “We were doing things.”

One initial project was providing face masks and personal protective equipment.

All over the UK, there are piles of pallets which are uneconomical to return for reuse. There is a distillery who gave us hundreds of these pallets.”

A local coffee roasting business had 100 hessian sacks which they disposed of each week. The Rotarians collected the sacks which were turned into carry bags, aprons, waistcoats and cushions, and then sold in the pop-up shops.

The club set up three Rotary-branded pop-up shops in the town centre, backed by grants of £5,000.

The Rotary club also became the focal point for renovating 120 laptops to be supplied to disadvantaged sixth form students, so that they could study from home during lockdown.

These were students entitled to free school meals and covered by the Pupil Premium programme.

Infants and junior schools were not left out as again the pandemic affected many of those families with young children.

With the aid of a grant of £1,000, the club purchased 110 Christmas presents distributed discretely to pupil premium students at seven Haslemere schools. However, the most successful pandemic project was a wood pallet recycling scheme.

“This was started by a friend of Haslemere Rotary,” explained Mike.

“All over the UK, there are piles of pallets which are uneconomical to return for reuse. There is a distillery who gave us hundreds of these pallets.

“Our friend turned these pallets into garden chairs and tables, which were then donated to our pop-up shops and market stalls to sell. A single garden chair takes about one day to make and was sold in the shop for around £40.”

The pallets were also designed into children’s play kitchens which were sold at £100 a time.

This scenario gives Rotary free materials and partly free labour.”

Now, working with prisoners serving at HMP The Mount at Bovingdon in Hertfordshire, they are producing a variety of wooden goods from the pallets which are being sold at the pop-up shops.

“The deal is that we deliver the pallets, they break them up into usable wood and make the furniture for our club,” said Mike.

“This scenario gives Rotary free materials and partly free labour.

“We now have a constant supply of garden furniture, children’s play kitchens, cooler boxes and large dice made from square pallet blocks, an idea introduced by the prison inmates.

Members of Halsmere Rotary underway in transforming the wooden pallets.

“Not only do we now have a regular supply source, but the club is able to visualise the total picture encouraging the prisoners to gain skills to help their eventual rehabilitation.”

The club normally raises £5,000 a year. During the pandemic, they raised more than £15,000 which went to the town’s stroke club, and food bank.

More than £1,600 was spent on Christmas presents to children, and a further £2,100 on computers for schools.

Mike added: “With good luck and a willingness to change, clubs will survive, thrive and prosper. You must be willing to try new ideas and don’t worry about failure, it’s a learning curve.”

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