For five months, the nation has been under lockdown because of an unprecedented pandemic. But this has not stopped Rotary clubs responding in an unprecedented way, working with their local community.
Winchester Rotary is well established in the Hampshire cathedral town with a healthy membership of around 60 Rotarians.
And that has helped club Presidents Mike Billington and Richard Spalding to lead the team to deliver aid across a number of fronts.
Last March, Richard was tasked by Mike, the then President of Winchester Rotary, with establishing a Winchester Rotary COVID-19 task force with representatives from Round Table and Rotaract.
“The initial aim was to prepare to be ready to support the community in the best way forward collectively as a club,” explained Richard.
For five months, the nation has been under lockdown because of an unprecedented pandemic. But this has not stopped Rotary clubs responding in an unprecedented way, working with their local community.”
“However, this then migrated into an implementation phase to co-ordinate and supply volunteers to perform requested tasks, and to facilitate donations to causes most impacted by COVID-19.”
The Task Force was wound up at the end of June as all of the activities had either been completed or become routine Rotary business.
Richard explained that the club worked closely with Winchester City Council and other key organisations early on, so that they knew where support would be best placed and to avoid cross-overs.
A contingency fund of £14,000 was established, including £2,000 contributed from Rotarians, donating funds they would not be spending on club meals for three months.
That money was used to help those who were directly impacted locally by the pandemic, and also to charities losing fund-raising income.
The Winchester Task Force then became directly involved with supporting a number of key areas in the city.
- The Winchester Task Force supported the main foodbanks (Basics Bank, Winchester Food Partnership and FirstBite).
- Local food donations were organised through many Rotarians, collected and passed to the foodbanks.
- Round Table also brought out the Santa Sleigh which, in only two weeks, collected 400 crates of food worth about £20,000.
- They donated £1,500 to FirstBite, to supply hot meals to the vulnerable, and £500 to Little Kitchen for meals to NHS workers.
- Trinity Winchester, which normally provides a day-centre and lunch service for local homeless people, had to adapt to the lockdown rules when its clients were housed in temporary accommodation under the ‘Everyone In’ scheme; this meant Trinity needed to supply pre-prepared meals with a delivery service.
- The Winchester Task Force arranged donations (mainly catering items) from Sainsbury’s and Tesco for Trinity to help with preparing and delivering meals to residents. They also provided DVDs, various other entertainment items and toiletries generously donated by Tesco customers.
- Trinity also received a £1,500 donation from Winchester Rotary in anticipation of their expected loss of income for the cancelled big fund-raiser, the annual Big Sleep Out.
- The Winchester Churches Nightshelter (WCNS) received a donation of £1,000 to help with their need to be open around the club.
- They contributed £500 to Emmaus, as their companions were unable to earn income with stores being closed.
- PPE face visors were provided to Trinity and WCNS.
HM Prison Winchester
- The Winchester Task Force purchased £1,100 of ‘recreational’ items such as DVDs, mindfulness colouring books, puzzles, and games for the inmates. Many were donated by the local community.
- Twelve Rotarians offered to write letters to certain of the inmates if they would like (anonymously and securely), but this became too bureaucratic so the idea was never started.
Personal Protective Equipment
- The Winchester Task Force co-ordinated and part-funded the production, collection and delivery of 1,600 face visors. These were made by teams at Peter Symonds College, Henry Beaufort School and Kings School and provided to 12 local care homes, funeral directors, homeless charities, churches, special needs schools and opticians.
- They arranged for production of 387 sets of scrubs (loose fitting tops and trousers) and laundry bags by a volunteer organisation based in Twyford which were delivered to eight care homes.
- The Winchester Task Force produced many blogs on their club website, posts on social media and press releases.
- Information was aired on Winchester Radio and summarised in various Rotary newsletters
- Weekly updates were also produced and shared with key members of the community
- They targeted older and more vulnerable members of the community, such as former Rotarians and residents in care homes, emailing and phoning them to offer practical and social support
— Winchester Rotary UK (@WinchRotary) July 20, 2020
Main financial donations/expenditure (approx £12,000):
- Local: Trinity, WCNS, Emmaus, HM Prison, Little Kitchen (NHS meals), FirstBite (hot meals), Winchester & District Young Carers, Winchester Youth Counselling, Sebastian Action Trust, Stroke Association.
- Overseas: Purple Community Fund (Philippines), Great Lakes Peace Centre (Uganda), Tools for Self Reliance.
Current Winchester Rotary President, Richard Spalding, reckons his team contributed around 1,200 hours of volunteering to co-ordinate all of these activities.
“A vast amount of work was put into this by the Task Force, supplemented by many members, to deliver a great deal of helpful support,” he added.