At our last dinner meeting in July 2022 we welcomed Regional President Judith and Region Programme Action Lead Chris to share a meeting for friends and prospective members showcasing Programme Action projects over the last years. Our three Programme Action Officers had put together displays of twelve projects spanning 14 years of the clubs work. During the evening Regional President Judith inducted and welcomed Cherry as a new member of Bilston & District alongside club President Cherril and Cherry’s sponsors Rita and Julie.
New member inducted into club during lockdown.
Club held a Zoom Business meeting in October at the beginning of which President Jenny welcomed a new member Dawn to the club. Although it wasn’t possible to hand Dawn her badge and for the President to shake Dawn’s hand the induction was carried out remotely with all members introducing themselves.
Dawn had seen our club activities on our website and made contact. Arrangements were made for the Membership officers to meet with Dawn, of course observing the social distancing rules, after which several club members met with her outdoors, for a Picnic in the Park, again staying well apart.
Dawn’s enthusiasm is already evident and we know that she will be an excellent member of Bilston Club and we welcome her sincerely.
Dawn tells her own story about how she discovered that SI Bilston is the club for her.
“It all started when I asked a work colleague if she had plans for the weekend. “I’m putting Buddy Bags bags together” came the reply. “What are they for?” I asked, thinking along the lines of they are for women who walk around the local park. She explained they were for children who have left their home and domestic abuse. It did seem far more interesting than my plans of watching TV, housework and a bit of crochet if I could be bothered, so I asked “Who did you do that with?”. She told me me she was a Soroptimist and said I should consider joining, she knows me for my passion regarding women’s equality and highlighting oppression/discrimination issues. I had never heard of them before, what on earth is a Soroptimist?, Are they optimists? I can’t be with happy people all the time. What kind of people are they that they spend Saturday afternoons putting bags of children’s toys together for children who have left their homes because of domestic abuse? Then I thought, “They are my kind of people, that’s who”.
I have always been interested in wanted to do something to make the world a better place, but never really known what to do – it seems such a huge challenge and where do you start? Other groups I have been involved with in the past have done a lot of talking, and I felt I needed somewhere that actually takes action as well. So that weekend I looked at the Soroptimist website – spent all weekend as a matter of fact with one page leading to another, and another and another. I couldn’t believe all the campaigns and the practical action they take. It was exactly what I was looking for – a group of women who support my three passions – empowerment, education and enablement. “Yes”, I thought, “this is something I want to be part of”.
My colleague invited me to talk to the President of her group to ask about joining, however we live in different counties and although I could travel and it wasn’t very far, I wanted to do something in my local community. There are several groups that are all within about a 10 mile radius so I looked at their website pages to apply to the ones that had campaigns closest to my heart.
Bilston and District just leaped off the page. Looking at what they had done over the last few years was incredible. I have never been personally affected by forced marriage or honour based abuse but I have always thought of it as a human rights issue and it sits very close to my heart, and here Bilston SI were promoting awareness and actively campaigning. Then I looked at everything else they had done – a camel, helping to organise free cardiac screening, environmental issues, Alzheimer’s awareness, meals for children, toys for children leaving domestic abuse – it was all there – many issues I cared about but didn’t know what to do to help. I have to say they had me at camel, so I decided to plunge in and sent an email (probably a rambling one), and waited to see what they say.
A short time later there arrived a very warm phone call from Rita with introductions and an offer to meet (lockdown had just started). It was a very nice phone call and yes they were happy to welcome me. We met in the park on a socially distanced picnic. I can honestly say I have never met a nicer, caring, compassionate, interesting and friendly group of people. Everyone was extremely welcoming, friendly, kind and good humoured. I listened to stories of past events and activities, but what I heard was a group of women who deeply care about their local community and each other. The time flew and when I received a lovely welcoming gift from Julie, I felt I belonged, was welcomed and have found a home, and the rest is history.
Sadly we have not been able to meet as a group due to lockdown and it has been difficult to arrange and participate in activities although it has been good to be able to meet some of the members on a small group basis just to chat with them and get to know them individually. I always thought it took a lot of courage to walk into a room full of people you don’t know for the first time however this has not been like that and when I attended an event between lockdowns I was accompanied so I don’t have to go alone. Again, just another kind touch from a very kind group.
We have a virtual meeting on a monthly basis which is better than nothing at all (saying hello to everyone takes 10 minutes) and there are extra meetings going on and some planned to discuss specific issues such as planting of trees for the Centenary. I have to say the Christmas meeting was wonderful, so funny and I really enjoyed it. Lockdown may have reduced the activities done but certainly not the quality. I am amazed at what the members do and the time and effort they put into it. Hundreds of masks, bags, ear defenders, not to mention running the risk of being foul of the law is astounding. Every monthly meeting there has been activities done, tasks undertaken and plans for next month. This again is another example of Bilston SI – they will tackle any problem and find a way to work around it rather than do nothing. I think one of the benefits of the virtual meeting as a new member is to listen and learn what the roles are and what individuals and the group do as well as the format and feel of the group itself. There is so much going on and I am able to write down items that I need to research a bit more. Help is always on hand though, the President and members have always encouraged me to email them if I am unsure of anything.
I look forward to the day we can all meet together, but until then this extraordinary group of women will continue to inspire, encourage, find humour, be caring and compassionate and carry on doing what they have been doing for years, just getting on with the practical activities that make such a difference to people they help educate, enable and empower”.
At the June 2018 Business meeting President Gill and Bilston members were very pleased to welcome Val into membership. Val has already shown a special enthusiasm for the work of Soroptimists and the club. Her sense of humour and energy will be well received by club members.
Bilston members welcomed Denise into membership at their Business meeting in February 2018. Denise had already attended several club meetings to look at us, helped at a major club coffee morning and helped to pack Mary’s Meals back packs. On those occasions we felt that Denise was a like minded woman, clearly interested in all programme action, as she already gives her spare time to charity. The saying ‘you only get out of an organisation what you put into it ‘ fits Denise exactly and we know that she is already making a excellent member. Photograph shows the induction, by President Ann, of our newest member Denise during the club Business Meeting in February 2018.
At the October 2017 Business meeting President Ann inducted Julie into the worldwide Soroptimist organisation and warmly welcomed her as a member of SI Bilston & District. Julie has been to a number of Bilston club meetings, the Annual Charter celebration and a Friendship visit to Somerset. She is already firmly established with us and we look forward to working with her. Julie has shown her creative skills already by making dresses for Mary Meals Backpacks. We know Julie will be an excellent Soroptimist. Prior to the April 2017 AGM we celebrated good news- two new members joined the club- who had transferred from SI Smethwick, which sadly has closed. Cherril and Lesley were warmly welcomed to Bilston.