2020: A year of helping against the odds!

A summary of Hawick Rotary's work with the community during 2020, despite the problems of Coronavirus and Lockdowns

The year 2020 was, for Hawick Rotarians, a very strange experience. Face-to-face meetings at the start of the year and then again during early August when it seemed permissible, but otherwise dominated by Zoom screens. Just as for the members of most other Clubs.

However this gives a false impression of the level of activity. Hawick were able to draw together funding to help a range of community groups, in the process benefiting from a great deal of positive coverage in the press and on social media.

In February 2020, Roxburghshire was hit by severe flooding which hit national TV when part of The Bridge Guest House was filmed collapsing into the Teviot. This was only one example of the damage caused but drew national attention. The Hawick Club was able to put together emergency funding for those who lost their homes in the Crowbyres area to the south of the town, and for the 60 or so households who were made homeless in Newcastleton a further 20 miles south. This funding, amounting to about £3000, came from the Club's own reserves, from donations from other Borders clubs, especially Melrose, and from District 1020 Foundation.

It quickly became apparent that there was an need for further funding to restore the inundated Polysport facility at Newcastleton, an all-weather facility used by young and old in the village for tennis, five-a-side and walking football and other exercise groups. Having been flooded by dirty and contaminated river water, the facility required specialist cleaning and restoration and thanks to advice and help from past District Governor Jo Pawley a successful application was made to RI's Disaster Response Trust for £9000 to cover the entire cost.

These events of course took place in February, just before Covid 19 became an even bigger problem. One of the issues, shared with all other Clubs, was that face-to-face fundraising could no longer take place. Normally Hawick would have two coffee mornings, a charity quiz and perhaps a film night to raise funds in any year and so a shortfall of between £1000 and £1500 could be envisaged if these did not go ahead.

In August however, at the restart of meetings – briefly face-to-face and then on Zoom – Rotarian Ron Sutherland PHF suggested that he and his wife Pat, both very keen hillwalkers, could undertake a Seven Trig Points Challenge, walking in one day around 32 km. between seven Ordnance Survey triangulation pillars on hilltops surrounding Hawick. The date chosen was Pat's birthday, November 13th. Ron, Pat and the Club prayed for good weather! A Just Giving page was set up on Facebook and very very many updates were given on the Club's Facebook page as well as in The Hawick Paper. The target was to be £1000, a figure quickly proposed as it seemed a high target, giving our members something to aim at. Decisions then had to be made as to worthy local causes and members put forward 12 suggestions from which, after discussion in yet another Zoom meeting, three were finally chosen. These were Act One Youth Theatre, Burnfoot Community Futures and Reaching Out: these covering different sectors of the local community in age, in interest and in area of the town.

Blessed by dry and mild weather on the day, and completed in nine hours, the Challenge eventually raised the astonishing total of almost £2700. The intention had been that each of the three groups would receive one third of £1000 if it was achieved but it was now possible to give out cheques for £450 each, and to have around another £1350 for distribution to other needy groups in the months ahead.

Finally, again with the help of PDG Jo Pawley, it was possible to distribute nine Amazon Fire tablets under the RI Disaster Response Trust Stress and Distress scheme to two local groups working with townsfolk who have dementia-related problems, Hawick Dementia Cafe and Hawick Rugby Memories Group.

From the very difficult circumstances created by flooding and by Coronavirus, and echoed in the difficulty of raising funds, it has been possible for Hawick's Rotarians to make valuable and valued contributions to deserving local groups.

The only problem now is to find a similar project, and a willing volunteer, for the coming new Rotary Year! The one lasting message we take from this of course is that a single carefully planned project can raise more money than our usual methods and can be conducted in a socially-distanced, Covid friendly way. May we say a huge thank you to District 1020's officers for their cooperation, to the other Borders Clubs and their members who donated, and to the leaders of The Disaster Response Trust.

Ron Smith

President & Secretary: Rotary Club of Hawick

Update: February 2021

Following the publication of an article in The Hawick Paper on 15th January about the financial situation of the Heads Together charity, Hawick Rotary Club members discussed the matter and have sent a donation of £450 for the organisation's general funds. Club President Ron Smith said: 'We noticed the report and felt that this would be a very deserving cause for us to use some of the funding raised by Ron and Pat Sutherland's Seven Trigs Challenge back in November.'

The Club has also continued its help to small businesses through taking part in the Lend With Care scheme. Several years ago a starter amount of £200 was set aside for making small loans (emphasise loans) to entrepreneurs across the globe who wanted to expand their businesses, perhaps by buying a new fishing boat, by investing in seeds and farm equipment, in a small workshop or in a market stall. This has gone very well and is of much interest to Club members. At the end of December the balance in this account was £42, but repayments of £87 were received during January and the small group which decides on loans is now able to make further offers, which are usually at a level of £30 to £50. Club member Linden Warburton who coordinates this says: 'It's very pleasing that our loans are being repaid considering the global economic issues during this pandemic.'

These two aspects highlight Hawick Rotary's commitment to helping both at home and abroad.



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