They may not be able to meet any more face-to-face, but Rotary clubs across Great Britain and Ireland have come to the fore in support of their communities.
Because of the strict new curbs on public life announced by the Prime Minister last week, with a ban on gatherings of two or more people, and strict instructions for the public to stay at home, so many Rotary clubs have gone online to meet.
Scores of clubs and Rotary districts have been conducting their weekly business via online meeting apps such as Zoom. And this has provided a platform for Rotarians to help their community.
In Berkshire, Maidenhead Bridge Rotary has formed a community response team of volunteers, made up of not only Rotarians, who are running errands for the vulnerable. This includes doing shopping, collecting medications, posting letters and even dog-walking.
If you are self-isolating due to Coronavirus, we have volunteers who can run errands for you such as doing your shopping, collecting medications etc. So if you need help please get in touch today (subject to availability) via our website: https://t.co/c7MpCGdWaa pic.twitter.com/cj9FkZsDQx
— M'head Bridge Rotary (@MheadBRotary) March 17, 2020
Co-ordinator, Lisa Hunter, said they were looking to help those who were worried about going out, or are self-isolating because of concerns over the coronavirus.
She said: “In this time of uncertainty, with many members of our community having to self-isolate, this is the perfect opportunity for Rotary in Maidenhead to do what it does best, helping those in our local community who might need a little extra support during difficult times.
“Our worry is that people are being told to self-isolate for two weeks and at the end of that we find out that they haven’t had any food to eat or friendly support.
“We want to make sure everybody has got somebody to keep them supplied.”
The Rotary club is also working with parents in the Maidenhead area to provide food to families whose children usually receive free school meals.
“To date, we’re supporting 54 people in the community, and we have had 61 volunteers to run errands, which has blown us away entirely,” added Lisa.
For more information about how you can get involved, or get help view the Maidenhead Bridge Rotary website.
Just down the M4, Reading’s eight Rotary clubs are working together in similar fashion collecting prescriptions, fetching urgent supplies, posting mail, dog walking and providing a friendly phone call to those who are self-isolating.
They have been publicising their message on BBC Radio Berkshire, focusing on the Royal Berkshire Hospital by asking companies and individuals to make donations to help staff with protective clothing, gowns and masks, as well as medical supplies.
BBC local radio stations nationwide are regularly sharing details of the help and support which is available from organisations and individuals as part of a project called ‘Make a Difference’, with half-hourly updates. Find out more here.
The news can seem quite bleak, but there are SO MANY examples of kindness and support around Berkshire at the moment ❤️
— BBC Berkshire (@BBCBerkshire) March 19, 2020
Garth Arnold, Public Image co-ordinator for Rotary in Great Britain & Ireland, said: “This is a great opportunity to get some publicity for Rotary and the clubs who are getting involved in supporting communities during the outbreak.”
The Reading Rotarians have also been encouraging children to write letters or send pictures to nursing homes or an elderly neighbour, through their “Children and teenagers – send a smile” campaign.
And with many schools closed, the Berkshire group of Rotarians has produced a reading list of books for children to grapple with during their time out of class, including authors such as Jan Ormerod, Sophie Blackhall, Michael Morpurgo and Daniel Defoe.
Similarly, in Lancashire, Rotary Lytham are supporting an initiative of 17-year-old Georgie Gilmore to help the community in these difficult times.
“With the help of several local women – and one man – it has taken off in a big way and is now supported by Fylde Borough Council and Lytham Skip Hire,” said a spokeswoman for Rotary Lytham.
“We are delighted to have been involved since its inception with Georgie and the team.”
Foodbanks are struggling to find sufficient donated provisions to help the needy at the moment.
Many Rotary clubs across the isles are donating the money they would have spent on Rotary dinners to local foodbanks.
A large number of Rotary clubs in the Thames Valley District (1090) have signed up to helping food banks, including the seven Reading clubs.
And in the west country, Gordano Breakfast Rotary has donated their breakfast subs to the Clevedon District Foodbank, who are desperately short of food items.
In Kent, Tonbridge Rotary has been supplying much-needed funds to the food charity, Families Eating and Sharing Together (FEAST), which helps families unable to obtain free school meals.
#TonbridgeRotaryClub is alive and well. Still working for the community behind closed doors! Following the closure of schools the Club acted swiftly to assist local food charity FEAST by providing it with much needed funds for local families unable to obtain free school meals. pic.twitter.com/FTjwzWVIbY
— Tonbridge Rotary (@rotarytonbridge) March 26, 2020
Other clubs are donating larger cash sums out of their club reserves. Sittingbourne Invicta Rotary donated £1,000 to the Swale Foodbank in Kent.
Bradford West Rotary is working hard to help the Bradford Metropolitan Foodbank find enough food to supply their dependent families in the West Yorkshire city.
The club has been using social media to provide a regular list of wanted items.
“Each week the food bank needs certain items to provide a basic balanced diet – the list of requirements will change from week to week,” said a club spokesman.
“So each Friday we will publish a list of the foods they need for the week ahead and we will aim to collect them the following Tuesday or Wednesday. We are working with Mohammed Taj of Bradford Council as he tries to organise local collecting points.”
In south-east England, District 1120, which includes Rotary clubs in south-east London, as well as Kent and Sussex, have put together a district project team.
“We are working together to look into what clubs are doing during the Covid-19 period and sharing stories,” explained Richard Joy, from Sittingbourne Invicta Rotary.
“We have also set up a Zoom team to support clubs in setting-up online video meetings to stay in touch with club members – combatting loneliness and maintaining some business.”
We are working together to look into what clubs are doing during the Covid-19 period and sharing stories,”
The Rotary clubs of Kings Hill and Sittingbourne Invicta are carrying on with what Rotarians do best; supporting their communities. Both clubs are currently opening up their community chests for applications for funds from local small clubs and groups.
Members of the Maidstone Dawn Patrol Rotary have been taking regular exercise litter-picking whilst maintaining social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak.
Romney Marsh Rotary has been involved in setting up of the Romney Marsh Support Hub. The group includes a number of charities, including foodbanks, as well as local church leaders, Kent Police, councils, doctors’ surgeries, scout groups and community wardens.
The aim of the Hub is to ensure there is a consistent and factually correct message going out to the public and avoid duplication of effort. Find out more here.
A Rotary club in Shropshire is giving an immediate emergency donation to a local primary school to assist with additional expenditure due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Members of Shrewsbury Severn Rotary Club have agreed to donate £500 to the Grange School to assist them at this difficult time. They have also sent a donation to the Shrewsbury Food Hub which will be passed on to local food banks.
Peter Love, from Shrewsbury Rotary said: “The schools are not closed for the children of essential workers. The additional expenditure is for things such as extra breakfasts, non-normal activities and support for vulnerable children who are not in school.
“They are also trying to keep the school open outside the term times.”
In Wiltshire, Chippenham Rotary has been helping in the community for those who are self-isolating by providing urgent supplies and even a friendly chat on the phone. They have been using social media to promote the service.
The Chippenham Rotarians have been using the Salvation Army Hall and working with local supermarkets in the town to sort, pack and distribute food parcels to the needy.
President Adrian Foster said: “Morrisons have been supplying us with bread, fresh vegetables and fruit three times a week.
“They have now kindly donated £1,000 worth of tinned food to arrive at the food bank next week. We know the need is out there the phone has not stopped ringing all day.”
In West Yorkshire, Normanton Rotary discovered that the charity The Well Project was desperate for food and other items. The Well Project is a community centred charity which works across the community providing positive activities for all to engage with.
“As a result, we acted quickly and made an immediate donation to them to buy essential items,” said club President, Ian James, who handed over a cheque at arm’s length to Ash Samuels, the charity’s assistant manager.
In North Lincolnshire, Epworth & Isle of Axholme Rotary is part of a Good Neighbours’ scheme working with the local councils, and churches.
Rotarian Carol Walsh described the initiative as a partnership between voluntary and trade organisations in the area. The Good Neighbours’ partnership has fed 16 families, including 27 adults and 37 children.
Carol explained: “Effectively we are a volunteer force that will help out vulnerable people in this time of need.
“Rotary was tasked with creating a leaflet which provided essential information to all households in the area.
“When the coronavirus crisis emerged, we knew that the Rotary year wouldn’t progress as we had imagined, but by reacting with appropriate urgency to events and working with others, our club is determined to uphold the Rotary motto of ‘service above self’.”to of ‘service above self’.”
Tell us your stories. What work are you doing in the community? Send your stories and pictures to Dave King at: email@example.com