One of the positives to emerge out of the coronavirus pandemic has been the increase in goodwill that has been evident within our communities.
Numerous people in the Watford area have stepped forward to help those shielding or self-isolating, the elderly or those less well off than themselves by not only donating money but giving their time to help out with delivering food or dropping by someone’s home to check on their wellbeing.
Life may be starting to slowly return to a form of normality for many of us and Rotary Club of Watford past president David Silverston is hopeful the spirit of goodwill that has been created will not become a casualty of this.
He believes the Covid-19 crisis has led to change in attitudes among people and this can benefit both his own organisation and other local charities in terms of increasing the numbers of volunteers and potential donors.
He said: “There is an element of goodwill out there. I think people have refocused their minds as to what they really want out of life and its not all take, take, take.
“I think people are probably going to be a bit more giving after this, realise how fragile life is and that there are people that are much worse off than us, whether it be physically, financially or whether it be mentally.”
A tree planting team from the Watford club
Watford Rotary is no different to other organisations in the charity sector which have seen their activities badly affected by the pandemic, but it is an annual fundraising event planned at the end of this year which is causing growing concern due to the coronavirus restrictions.
The popular Christmas float, where Santa’s sleigh is towed through the streets of Watford and accompanied by volunteers collecting donations while collections are also held outside supermarkets, raised more than £13,000 last year, amounting to around 80 per cent of the club’s annual fundraising income.
Mr Silverston, whose year as president ended last week, said: “We’re concerned because even if we’re given the go-ahead to do it, we’re shaking buckets. How are people going to put money in the buckets? We’re thinking of going contactless with a card reader so people can put an amount that they want to donate into it.”
The Watford branch is planning on the basis the float will be able to take place but another issue they face is finding volunteers to staff it.
Mr Silverston said: “What we decided to do last year, and it worked to a certain degree, is we said okay, we will decide to support you provided you can provide us with x amount of collectors because the more money we raise, the more money we can give you, so there’s a little bit of a trade off there.”
Watford Rotary also hold annual competitions for younger people in areas including technology and music
The Rotary Club is open to anyone who would like to give something back to the community or help national and international projects. The Watford branch usually meets at Oddfellows Hall, in The Avenue, but meetings are currently being held on Zoom.
“We really are facilitators,” explained Mr Silverston. “We’re the people that fund raise, it goes into a central pot and then it will be distribute it to the charities that the president of that year has decided he would like to support.
“There are charities that we do on a regular basis, but generally speaking it’s not always the same charities every year.”
Mr Silverston's successor as president is Richard Goates. He is keen to increase the Watford branch’s involvement with good causes in the area and explained: “I’ve done a list of the charities we’ve supported in the past and given money to, they’re coming to tell us how they spent the money and what their ideas are in the following year, so we’ll be keeping our feet very firmly on the ground in Watford.
“We want to look at international projects, but we’re aware we might not raise anything like the amount of money we’ve done in the past so we have to look at seeing what we can do on a practical basis.
“Also to be able to get of their houses…gradually give people the confidence to go out and interact with a limited number of people because we can’t put the rest of our lives on hold because of this virus. We’ve got to try and navigate it somehow to be able to get through it.”