Back in February 2022, I was listening to the incoming Rotary International President, Jennifer Jones, speak about the power of Rotary.
Jennifer spoke passionately about what great things can happen when one Rotarian has an idea and, with the help of that person’s club, other Rotarians and the wider community, amazing things can be achieved.
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An example she mentioned was the Bountiful Rotary Club of Utah in the USA, who supplied primary school aged children from disadvantaged families with a brand-new warm winter coat each year.
This was all because one teacher noticed how children wearing ‘charity box’, second-hand coats were being bullied and teased in the playground.
He saw the effect it had on their confidence and ultimately their lack of engagement and learning.
So, this teacher and his Rotary club, in partnership with Walmart, started raising money to distribute elementary schools’ vouchers to needy families who could go to the shop and buy a coat like all the other children.
The teacher saw how the children walked a bit taller in their brand-new coats and, more importantly, the effect it had on their self-confidence and learning. That was 24 years ago, and they are still doing it.
The Rotary E-Club 1070 wanted to take on this project. The Utah Rotary club was very helpful telling us all about how their project worked.
We initially set ourselves a target of 200, but distributed 1,089 vouchers to primary schools across the entire district, which includes Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire.”
We approached several big retailers in this country who were not keen on the voucher idea, but offered gift cards instead. However, we felt these would be open to misuse.
So being an e-club, we developed a website which carries no Rotary branding – it looks just like any other on-line shop.
The website is exclusively for families to use their vouchers so the child never knows that they are receiving this gift from Rotary, an individual, society or club who donates £25 for them to have a high-quality, warm winter coat with a hood.
We finished the first winter operations in December 2022.
The Utah club usually supplies 600 coats a year. We initially set ourselves a target of 200, but distributed 1,089 vouchers to primary schools across the entire district, which includes Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire.
We were able to do this through amazing fund-raising from District 1070’s Rotary clubs, a matching grant, and several small charity grants.
Many Rotary clubs have pledged to support us again as this year when we hope to supply coats across Great Britain & Ireland. We could never have done this without the ‘Power of Rotary’.