Wallasey Rotary Club is fast approaching its centenary – the first club established on the Wirral peninsula back in 1928. But it’s far from a stiff and starchy Rotary club.
For sure, the club with 41 members has an ageing demographic with many Rotarians either retired or on the cusp of retirement. Yet in the last 10 years, they have been instrumental in setting up two satellite clubs at Penny Bridge and Roydon Resolve which has, in turn, produced a granddaughter club at West Kirby.
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Rotary never stops, it keeps evolving. Satellite clubs enable flexibility and an opportunity for Rotary to prosper in an area with a new club and a different approach.
Manojit Lodh, a doctor in Wallasey, explained how a decade ago they were introduced to the idea of sponsoring a satellite club which needed just eight members to start with, and then 20 to charter.
“I called together a group of enthusiastic, young people to a meeting at my house, offered them coffee and cake, and told them they needed to form a satellite club today,” he said.
“We got eight people to form this new club and now they are independent as Penny Bridge Rotary Club.”
One of the reasons why we are successful is because everybody does their own little bit.”
Wallasey Rotary Club created a second satellite club within a space of four weeks called Roydon Resolve which, in turn, established West Kirby Rotary Club in 2015.
“We are an ageing club at Wallasey, but what we have done is to create these satellite clubs which are different, and have not been to the detriment of our own club,” added Iain Henderson.
Ray Allen, like Manojit and Iain, is a former Past President of Wallasey Rotary. He pitched in: “We were very apprehensive about setting up a satellite club, but we were wrong. Our club has continued to prosper and these new clubs have given Rotary a fresh focus.”
Annette Wyllie was last year’s Rotary President whose term of office lists an incredible series of projects raising in the region of £15,000.
This included organising a concert for Ukraine to raise money for medical supplies, and staging fund-raisers to support six cleft palate operations.
In supporting the lonely and isolated, the club arranged an old folks’ dinner, a Coronation tea especially for those without family, and delivered Easter eggs to care homes.
The club funded sailing courses for teenagers at West Kirby, provided solar powered street lights for a town in India, supported Malawi Foster Care, set up a small foodbank in a nursery, as well as purchasing ShelterBoxes and sending Christmas shoeboxes to eastern Europe.
It is a breathless list of activities. Annette explained: “I started the year wondering how I was going to cope, but I learnt you cannot do everything, you pick and choose what is important to you. As President, I have had the privilege of choosing my own charities, raising money for them, choosing the community members to support, and had loads of help to do it.”
Wallasey sits on the edge of the Wirral Peninsula overlooking Liverpool.
According to the Rotarians, it is a middle-class town with large areas of deprivation.
Of the 41 members drawn from a variety of nationalities, 10 are female. They describe themselves as “a very friendly and cohesive club”. In the 1990s, Wallasey Rotary had 55 members, but numbers have now stabilised post-Covid.
The club meets every Thursday evening at Leasowe Golf Club, and though there is a degree of formality with toasts and wearing the chain of office, the key to the club’s success is not the bling, but the focus.
“One of the reasons why we are successful is because everybody does their own little bit,” added Annette.
“One of the problems of organising big events to raise money is that everyone is focused on that one big thing. What we do is organise smaller events. We have fun while raising money, and that is important.”
Ray Allen added: “It is worth saying that we now concentrate on more manageable projects rather than big fund-raising exercises for the sake of just raising funds. The emphasis now is very much more on active projects.”
Satellite clubs enable flexibility and an opportunity for Rotary to prosper in an area with a new club and a different approach.”
Bill Wyllie, who chairs the club’s International team, recalled he was asked by a couple of new members where project ideas come from.
He explained: “The beauty of Wallasey Rotary is that if someone has an idea, they propose it to the club, they run it, and that way we are promoting eye-catching projects which people buy into. We look to raise money in a short period of time and then move on.”
Asked what advice they would give to other Rotary clubs who are struggling to succeed, Ray Allen, said gender diversity was key. “Our ethos is that we are a family club within the wider Rotary family. We have a lot of activities involving friends and partners.”
Annette Wyllie added: “I have visited some clubs which I would call stuffy.
“They are clinging on to something that is not there anymore, which people don’t want any more. That’s why they are failing. It is a new world out there and we have to adapt with the times.”
As for the future, Wallasey Rotary will keep moving; it will keep fundraising and according to almoner, Mike Embers, it will be targeting its membership drive towards 50 to 60-year-olds, as well as newly-retired people.
After all, their centenary is just around the corner!