Club Speakers 2017 – 2018

Bozena with President Ann


Traditionally the February Dinner meeting is a celebration to recognise that Soroptimism is international.  This year was no different.

At our dinner meeting on 15th February we were delighted to welcome guest speaker Bozena Benton President of SI Sutton Coldfield.  She joined us for our International Evening and spoke about the global dimension of Soroptimist International. Two members of SI Wolverhampton also joined us for the evening.

The evening began with a candle lighting ceremony giving us all the opportunity to think about and celebrate the work of Soroptimist International.  Candles were lit for the four Federations and each country of SIGBI was read out as coloured candles were switched on.

Bozena has travelled to all the Federations and enjoyed their conferences as well as travelling to the UN SI Conventions.  She was well placed through her previous roles in SIGBI and SI to share with us her experiences and to highlight the differences and similarities between each of the Federations.

Her presentation was very interesting and enlightening with many anecdotes along the journey. It was good to hear firsthand about the development of an African Federation although many hills to climb on the way. We heard about a new club which consists of Jews, Palestinians and Arabs all working in harmony.

In the South West Pacific a long journey is not unusual for members to attend region meetings.  In the American Federation 53% of members are Japanese and 6 men have also joined SI Americas. The SI Europe conference was held in Florence and much enjoyed by Bozena.

In her summary Bozena commented that, although our practices can differ across globe, the fundamental focus for us all is very definitely improving the lives of women and girls and we all have the same  Soroptimist ‘DNA’.






President Ann with Zoe

At our January Dinner  meeting the speaker was Zoe Baggott  who spoke about Alzheimer’s research.  She gave us factual information about the disease and how Alzheimer’s Research UK is working to find out more about how the disease develops and to develop drugs to help and eventually cure dementia

Despite the fact that women are much more likely to suffer from dementia there are things we can do to help ourselves. We need to foster a healthy life style, which means more exercise, keeping the brain active ,going out, meeting people, healthy eating, no smoking, and no alcohol. Not so sure about the latter but socialising and alcohol come together rather well.




Bilston angels -I don’t’ think so!

What a lovely Christmas Party we had  on 21st December at LInden House.  Club members welcomed guests and partners to an evening of Christmas fun, food and carols.  Our guest speaker was Kath Reynolds who took us all down memory lane as she talked about Christmas past.  This included types of decorations, gifts and toys.  We all fondly remembered the sock hanging on the mantelpiece and leaving mince pies and whisky for Santa.. Everyone present could relate to this blast from the past and enjoyed seeing some of the memorabilia that Kath had collected over the years.

The evening included a quiz which was both challenging and fun.  The winning team included Pat & Rowland, Lynne & Phil,Josie & Bob, Cherril and Lesley. Didn’t they do well!.

The evening was completed with an alternative version of Good King Wenceslas sung by President Anne and 3 Bilston ‘angels’!! (Photo)



Dementia Friends Training.















Lee Allan, a trained volunteer Dementia Friend Champion came to speak at our November Dinner Meeting and delivered Dementia Friendly training.  Alzheimers Research is President Ann’s chosen charity.

He began by telling us that out of the top 10 diseases Dementia is the one that has no cure. He emphasised the 5 things we should know about Dementia

  • It is not a natural part of ageing
  • It is caused by diseases of the brain
  • It is not just about losing your memory, it can affect thinking, communicating and doing everyday tasks.
  • It is possible to live well with dementia.
  • There’s more to a person than the dementia.


It is hoped that Wolverhampton will become a Dementia Friendly City.  We can help,now we have been’ trained’ as Dementia Friends, to be part of that and wear our Dementia Friendly badges with pride.





President Ann with Olympian Verona Elder MBE


At our dinner meeting on 19th October 2017, following a very pleasant meal, President Ann introduced our guest speaker Verona Elder MBE.  Verona is a Wolverhampton girl who as a teenager discovered her talent for athletics. She trained with Wolverhampton and Bilston athletics club and at the age of 19 she was chosen to represent Great Britain in the 400 metres. This was her first Olympic Games.  She proudly wore the GB uniform and was very thrilled to find that Princess Anne was also a competitor.  Verona competed in 3 further Olympic Games , the European Championships and 3 Commonwealth Games. During her performances she won gold ,silver and bronze medals.  The gold was awarded to her for her role in the 4x 400 metres relay. After competing Verona became involved in helping the GB Youth Team and quickly she became the GB Senior Athletics Team Manager at the Atlanta Games

Since that time Verona has worked at Thurrock College using sport to help children with learning difficulties and disabilities.  There is no doubt that Verona has had a great career and her dedication to her training resulted in well deserved medals. It was great to hear Verona’s  story.




President Jan with Geoff



At the Dinner Meeting on 20th July Geoff Blanksley gave a fascinating introduction to pharmacy as a career. In an assured talk he gave details of becoming a pharmacist and his own career.  Pharmacy qualification is now at post graduate level needing a four years Masters degree and one registration year. Geoff had read pharmacy at Bath University but locally there are now three courses at the universities of Wolverhampton, Keele and Aston.

Once qualified a pharmacist has a choice of places to work including community pharmacy, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies or the academic sector. Geoff spent most of his career in community pharmacy, working at Boots in Merry Hill and becoming their Community Manager looking for opportunities to expand services within the community. As Community Manager he was “the public face of Boots”. He now works with Local Pharmacy Groups in Wolverhampton and Birmingham, local pharmacies paying a levy to the Local Pharmacy Group

There are seventy pharmacies in Wolverhampton and the scatter of the businesses is good. He noted that the National Health Service is stretched and outlined the services where a local pharmacy could help. Services include patient/pharmacist consultations on prescriptions, useful as 20% of patients do not take their medicine correctly, emergency contraception and public health services. Geoff concluded that doctors are in short supply and pharmacists could help. He noted that diabetes costs the National Health Service £8bn a year but nine relevant tests could be done at a pharmacy. The talk concluded with questions to the speaker.

President Jan with the group who visited The Way

President Jan with the group who visited The Way

On  15th June a small group of Bilston Soroptimists made an early evening visit to the Way Youth Zone in  Wolverhampton. This new city centre initiative next to the skate park provides sporting, dance, musical, art, media, cookery and well being activities for young people of the city aged 8 to 19 in a safe environment  between 4.00pm and 10.00pm each evening and a hot meal is available too.  The range of both indoor and outdoor sports activities is huge and includes rock wall climbing, cricket, racquet and net sports and opportunities to enjoy sport for disabled young people.Our tour lasted about an hour and we met enthusiastic and committed staff and volunteers and many friendly and totally engaged participants.The visit ended with a question and answer session with two members of the management team which certainly provided food for thought and opportunities for further involvement.



At our Dinner meeting 18th May we heard from Joan Morgan, representative of the Wildside Activity Centre based in Wolverhampton.  The Centre has been in existence for 30 years and due to Council cuts 10 years ago the funding ceased.  They now rely on visitors and donations.  Dr Elizabeth Hogarth founded the Wildside Centre which she and volunteers developed into an environmental and activity resource.  The aim of their work is to provide affordable and meaningful activities for schools, youth groups, community, elderly and those affected by mental health problems.  The addition of a narrowboat gave more opportunities for the centre to attract visitors.  As it is based by the canal and woodland there is much scope for adventurous activities.  Within the facility there are many volunteers amounting to 8000 hours per year.  An interesting talk enjoyed by members.









The first dinner meeting of the new year was held on 20th April when members welcomed Lynda a member of the Homeless Service in Wolverhampton to talk about her work with vulnerable people in Wolverhampton.  The hostel was originally an hotel and casino but now boasts 16 rooms for families who are homeless.  Care is provided for 24 hours every day by a small group of passionate staff, who might at one minute be helping to deliver a baby and the next counselling lonely people.  In addition to caring for the residents, staff provide advice and support for accessing services to help their journey back into the community.  Bilston club members are supporting the hostel in a number of ways.  Lyn spoke with passion, knowledge and humility about a job she clearly loves and was able to answer many questions posed by members.

Speaker Lyn holding a gift for the residents.

Speaker Lyn holding a gift for the residents.




(L-R) Kumlaish, President Jan, Tish

(L-R) Kumlaish, President Jan, Tish


Carla and President Jan

Carla and President Jan







SI Bilston – support for others

On 17th March the Dinner Meeting involved cheque presentations to some of the charities the club has been supporting this year. The President, on behalf of the club, presented cheques to Kumlaish from the Divine Onkar Mission and Tish Hill representing the SIGBI Benevolent fund. In addition during the year the club has supported others including; Book Aid International, Jericho House, International Aid Trust Boxes, Compton Hospice, Educate Nepal, Against Breast Cancer, Shoes for Harry, The White House Hostel and the purchase of a water tank in North Jamaica.  The club continues to support Karma Nirvana having raised approximately £3000 from the sale of Spoon Lapel Badges.

Following the meal we welcomed Carla Priddon, Programme and Performance Manager for The Way, a new Youth Zone based in Wolverhampton.  It opened in January 2016 in a brand new building and has many facilities including quiet rooms, kitchen, sports activities, football field, sportshall.  The Way is open to young people from 8 years of age to 19.  Youngsters with additional needs can attend up to the age of 25.  The zone has 4500 members each of whom pay 50p per visit.  Hot meals are available for a very modest fee. There are opportunities for youngsters to attend, have something to do and someone to talk to.  Every night there are 20 activities to choose from and much opportunity for socialising.

The Way was built using much sponsorship and the Mayor’s Partnership Fund.  There are 58 staff and 224 volunteers.  Carla showed some short films with youngsters expressing their gratitude for the support they have received at The Way

International friendship glow

International friendship glow

Birthday girl Josie (R) with Joan

Birthday girl Josie (R) with Joan









Our February Dinner meeting is traditionally our International Evening. This year was no different. We lit the peace candle and then a candle to remember each Federation followed by a candle for each of the countries in SIGBI. Our member, joint Regional President Pat led us through the ceremony. After an enjoyable meal members were challenged by a quiz on wide Soroptimist matters written by our convalescing President Jan. Guess who won?















At our Dinner Meeting on 19th January  club members recognised the service of two members; Jackie Brookes has given 50 years service and Nerys Rees 30 years to the club.


Pat, Nerys & Cherril

Pat, Nerys & Cherril

50 years of service. (L-R) Regional President Pat, Jackie, Regional President Cherril and President for the night Joan.

50 years of service.
(L-R) Regional President Pat, Jackie, Regional President Cherril and President for the night Joan.



















After the meal we welcomed Sue Bennett, Services Manager, Compton Hospice who spoke about the work of the hospice in Wolverhampton.  Sue originally wanted to be a police officer but damaged her back ruling her out of the career she had hoped for.  Following this she worked at Russell’s Hall Hospital when she saw an advertisement for a role at Compton Hospice to which she felt inspired to apply.  She is still working there today.  The role of the hospice has developed since its opening 35 years ago when palliative care for sufferers of cancer was the main focus of their work.  Today the hospice caters for patients with all types of life limiting complaints. It offers units for 18 patients, specialist treatments, a day unit for respite and patient well-being eg hair care.   .  The Hospice has 850 volunteers of which 500 help in the 27 charity shops around Wolverhampton.  Last year these shops raised £2million.

Speaker Sue with President for the evening Joan

Speaker Sue with President for the evening Joan

During the club year money has been raised for the work of the hospice.

Club members recognised Sue’s passion about her work and she does not regret her change in career one bit.














Our dinner meeting on 15th December was a very pleasant Christmas celebration.  With members there were several guests who enjoyed the meal which was followed by mince pies and chocolate.

A quilt  donated by Betty Vaughan and made by the Brewood quilters was skilfully auctioned by Norman (Gibbins)  The sale realised £75 which will be sent to SI International President’s Appeal for education in Nepal.  We were then entertained by the Compton Hospice Choir who do such good work in raising funds for the Hospice. There were many traditional carols and Christmas songs sung by the choir.

A good time was had by all and we send good wishes for Christmas to all Soroptimists and readers of our website.








At our November dinner meeting we were joined by Alison Brown from the Helping Handbags campaign.
She explained the work of this worthwhile campaign, which involves collecting handbags filled with items for homeless women.
For some weeks now Bilston members have been filling ‘ previously loved’ handbags with items such as sanitary protection, basic cosmetics and essential items for daily use to be given to vulnerable women who have few or no belongings.
Alison described how humbling it is to give the handbags personally to the women and to see their reactions.  She gave us a case study of a woman to illustrate the needs of many women in our area.  In the West Midlands 4000 bags were distributed last year and members were able to provide 23 bags for Alison to take away.
Our dinner meeting was well attended and we were able to donate 22 handbags to the “Helping the homeless” campaign. These will be distributed locally throughout the Black Country




Our October Dinner Meeting celebrated Black History Month with members and friends. Speaker was John White who gave us his historical interpretation of the life of a slave. He took the role of William Knight who was a crewman on a slave ship. He described the triangular trail where ships from England travelled with their cargo of metal goods to the West coast of Africa where these were exchanged for a new cargo – men, women & children often up to 450 people per ship. The slaves were not treated as human beings but chattels and taken to the Caribbean. 

Money raised is being sent to our Friendship Link club in North Jamaica for more water tanks.

President Jan with the slave 'William Knight'

President Jan with the slave ‘William Knight’


















Speaker Sheila with President Jan

Speaker Sheila with President Jan









For the July Dinner Meeting club members listened to Sheila who talked about her visit to America when she and her husband  saw Phantom of the Opera. During her stay in New York she had a meal in the Revolving Restaurant.  She enjoyed a boat trip around the islands and visited the Forbes Museum where she was able to see a whole floor dedicated to Faberge.  A good time was had by all.





Speaker, member Betty with Sheila who gave the vote of thanks.

Speaker, member Betty with Sheila who gave the vote of thanks.

President elect Jan took the meeting in the absence of President Barbara

President elect Jan took the meeting in the absence of President Barbara

The club dinner meeting on 16th June was an enjoyable evening.   The speaker after the meal was Bilston Club’s member Deaconess Betty Vaughan.  During the 1950s Betty was trained by the Diaconal Order.  Following this she was asked  to work in Whitechapel where she found a great deal of poverty but the women living in these poor conditions were ‘backyard saints’.  Her missionary work then took her to Bolton and during her 2 years there Betty worked with the youth.   Her ordination followed this and after 12 months she was sent to Ghana.  During her time in Ghana Betty worked closely with Methodist women who were training  for a variety of roles including support of vulnerable people.  On her return to England Betty took up a teaching post at Bilston Girl’s High School, where she taught our Federation President Margaret Emsley.
Several items of memorabilia from Ghana were displayed by Betty.
 19th May 2016 Dinner Meeting
President Barbara and the Region Bag

President Barbara and the Region Bag














President Barbara opened our 19th May Dinner Meeting by welcoming all members.  In the absence of a speaker Barbara provided us with a very well put together presentation which showed how to analyse our skill and communication styles for a particular position in an organisation.  Jan Gray gave out the new membership bags with the slogan ‘Ask me why I#m a Soroptimist’.  President Barbara closed the meeting by announcing the birthdays for the coming months

SI Bilston celebrated President Barbara’s first Dinner Meeting on the evening of the Queen’s 90th birthday,21st April 2016.  We toasted her Majesty and one of our members had made her a birthday card which we all signed.  ‘Her Majesty’ looked beautiful in a stunning blue outfit.

Our speaker for the evening was Kumlash Kummari a trustee of Divine Onkar Mission, a charity set up by her father 24 years ago to support a very impoverished area of the Punjab. At 84 he continues to be the driving force and is still a very active member of the organisation. As a club we first encountered DOM some years ago and provided the money for a water well providing water for four villages and as it is situated on a crossroads it is used by travellers. Our well is just one of the 825 provided so far by the charity as they endeavour to build sustainable communities through education, medical assistance, an Old Age Home and ITC training centre. Single mothers, widows and survivors of domestic violence are found meaningful work in their projects. They are now involved in the rescue of trafficked children, keeping them safe in the orphanage until they can be collected by their families.

' Her Majesty' joined Kumlash Kumari speaker and President Barbara

‘ Her Majesty’ joined Kumlash Kumari speaker and President Barbara







Barbara welcomes 'Her Majesty' Queen Elizabeth on her birthday.

Barbara welcomes ‘Her Majesty’ Queen Elizabeth on her birthday.








A warm welcome from members.

A warm welcome from members to our very royal guest .