Tom Drake MBE
I moved into Ewell in 1975 and had no contacts or friends in the local area. In the course of business, I met Alan Stubbs, an architect and Terry Brown, a heating engineer, who were both Rotarians and suggested I should consider joining Rotary and I attended a couple of meetings as their guest.
Impressed at the fellowship and good work carried out by the Rotarians in the club, I felt I would like to join them. Coincidentally, in 1905 when Paul Harris, the founder of Rotary, moved into Chicago, he too was without friends or contacts in the area; he subsequently created, with four others, the Rotary movement.
When I joined Rotary in 1977 there were no lady members and all the men ran their own businesses, apart from one who was the local bank manager. This has changed in recent years in as much as we now have, and welcome, lady members and today most of our members are still active in the work place as employees, with some semi-retired and some retired. Currently there are twenty-four male members and eight lady members.
In 2017 I will have been a member of the Rotary Club of Ewell for 40 years – half of my lifetime – and it is one of the best things I have ever done. I have made good friends in Ewell and throughout the Rotary movement worldwide, had lots of fun at social events such as BBQ’s, Cheese and Wine evenings, Charity Race Nights and Quizzes. I have enjoyed enormously supporting local and international charities through fund-raising and helping hands-on with community projects in the local borough, such as PHAB Epsom (Physically Handicapped and Able-Bodied), RDA Epsom (Riding for the Disabled), and organising charity concerts in support of The Children’s Trust, Tadworth. Internationally our club has supported the Rotary, ‘End Polio Now’, campaign, ShelterBox, Sightsavers, WaterAid (where I coordinate volunteer speakers in the South East) and Child Aid Lanka, of which I am a trustee.
Our club is twinned with the French Rotary Club of Condé Saint Amand near Lille and this involvement with an international club, gives all members, on a bi-annual exchange, the opportunity to visit France and is a wonderful way to experience the hospitality of our French counterparts.
My wife Primrose and I are also members of The Bandey-Hefler Exchange Group. It is an exchange programme with American Rotary clubs in New England during which couples from our District get the chance to visit Massachusetts; it epitomises Rotary fellowship at its very best.
Weekly club meetings give members the opportunity to network with others, creating good business relationships and to share ideas with each other. Indeed there are excellent opportunities to extend this further with local, national and international Rotarian conferences. A range of speakers are invited regularly to talk at club meetings and to hear others speak of their work with their charities and beyond gives inspiration to continue our fund-raising anew.
Since 2012, the Rotary Club of Ewell club, jointly with the Rotary Club of Epsom, established and organise the Epsom and Ewell Family Funday, where family, friends and children of the local borough can all enjoy a lovely day out and raises around £20,000. Importantly, this annual event gives smaller charities the valuable opportunity to promote their particular cause. As a member of the club, the involvement in this event gives great satisfaction when the benefit to all is clear.
A major event is the annual Christmas tree collection, which involves Rotarians and other charitable organisations to collect from 10,000 homes in Ewell and Stoneleigh and the children and families always enjoy a visit from Father Christmas.
When I first joined Rotary my expectations were to make new friends and associates and to work alongside those in fund-raising, to have fun and to experience good fellowship. These expectations have been more than surpassed and I like to think that I have contributed as much as I have benefited from being a Rotarian.
I have had the privilege of being club president twice, awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship in 2004, and in 2012 Primrose and I were awarded by Prince Charles the Award for Outstanding Voluntary Contribution in recognition of our services to WaterAid. I was honoured by HM The Queen in 2014 with an MBE for Services to Charity and the local community in the Borough of Epsom and Ewell.
I would like to say to anyone considering joining Rotary, to go along to a club, meet the members, enjoy the fun, fellowship and camaraderie, and really get involved with this worthwhile organisation, whose membership is now 1.2million in 35,000 clubs in 200 countries around the world. Become part of something special and above all, help those in need and maintain the Rotary motto, "We are for Communities" and the Rotary principle, which is to give "Service Above Self".