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June 2020 – our 5th Birthday and what have we done so far

Happy 5th birthday

SI MK Chartered 2015

Happy 5th Birthday Milton Keynes!

Soroptimists International Milton Keynes Branch was 5 in June 2020.  We held our birthday branch meeting via Zoom on 16 June, with each of us bringing along a cake and a glass of something to celebrate. Not quite what we had planned this year, but once we are out of lockdown we will make up for it.

We can’t believe where the 5 years have gone to, we have enjoyed them so much and whilst we may be small, we pride ourselves on being a very friendly group, and we have kept ourselves busy.  On looking back we remembered in our first year working with Aneeta Prem of Freedom of Charity to create the UK’s first schools programme to raise awareness of forced marriages.  The following year we held our first regional conference at Milton Keynes College and as each year has gone on, so we have grown in confidence with our projects.  We’ve helped to raise funds for the new Cancer Centre at Milton Keynes University Hospital, whilst supporting our four linked charities: British Red Cross; Works for Us; our YMCA and MK:Act, cooking Xmas meals for the residents of the YMCA, sharing out our SOS (Save our Smellies) packs amongst our linked charities.

During 2019 we took on our most ambitious project to date.  We set ourselves a target to raise £2,500 to furnish a room in the new YMCA facility being built in Central Milton Keynes.  Our main fundraiser was a ‘Sewathon’, where we had volunteer patch workers from across MK, sponsored by family and friends to make a king size quilt and two single quilts in a day!  When staff at the YMCA saw the single quilts, destined for two lucky residents they asked if it would be possible for us to make a further twenty eight quilts so that every new resident coming through the homeless hostel had a personal gift for their journey through the YMCA programme. Undaunted, the volunteer team got sewing and delivered 30 quilts in time for the opening of the new building.

On Wednesday 11 March 2020, in the Mayor’s Parlour at Milton Keynes Council Civic Offices, we handed over a cheque for £2,605.00, smashing our target, to the Mayor, Cllr Sam Crooks and Cheryl Montgomery, Chair of the Board of the YMCA.  The presentation was followed by tea and cakes kindly donated by MK Snap.  The room sponsored by us has been named the Violet Richardson Room, in dedication to the very first President of the founding Soroptimist club in Oakland in 1921.  Her motto was “it’s what you do that counts”.  Violet is commemorated across the founder region in the annual Violet Richardson Awards, a Grant in each branch for a girl, aged 14- 18, who has contributed to her local community.  Violet was a really interesting (and very long lived) woman, who campaigned for, and won, the right to be paid the same as fellow male teachers and led the Oakland Soroptimists in their first campaign – to save the Redwoods.  Equal pay and environmental issues still so relevant today!

Click here to read more about Violet Richardson, co-founder of the Soroptimists

Nor has Covid-19 stopped us in 2020. We have been sending Postcards of Hope to the Learning Disability Students of MK Snap to let them know they have not been forgotten and their friends are still thinking of them. We have been making cakes for the self-isolating residents of the Women’s Refuge. We have been making meals and face masks for the staff of the Winter Shelter in MK who are currently delivering emergency food relief and welfare support to those who have no other source of help.   And our main project for 2020 is working with MK:Act to deliver our “Escape the Trap” project” (Teenage Relationship Abuse Programme) to be delivered to secondary and primary schools.  This programme is to raise awareness to children and young people of behaviour that is not acceptable and how they can keep themselves safe.   We are really excited about this project and hope the pandemic will not delay us too much.

And so our first 5 years have been busy.  We are looking forward to an exciting future and hope we can encourage more people to join us and help us to be innovative in improving women and girls lives in our local community.

Happy 5th Birthday Milton Keynes!

We are still trying to look at ways of fundraising but keeping in mind with all the difficulties our charities are facing we don’t want to get in the way of their fundraising activities.  If you believe in our linked charities and want to help please donate direct to them or you can give us a donation for one of our four charities and we will pass it on.  You can contact us at


Vanessa Gwynn, one of our founders, remembers this as one of the first gatherings on the day the branch received its Charter, 2015.

Evening celebration of the inauguration of SI – Milton Keynes Branch, 2015.

Angela Novell, CEO MK Snap, being presented as Founder President to Her Royal Highness Princess Royal in Glasgow 2015.

Amanda Carter Philpot, with the MK Dons Ladies at our first hosted conference in Milton Keynes in  2016.

Top volunteering moments, In 2016 cooking Christmas lunch for the residents in YMCA – “Too many cooks in the kitchen”

Working with Aneeta Prem of Freedom of Charity to create the UK’s first schools programme to raise awareness of forced marriages in 2015/16.

Soroptimists MK helping to raise funds for the new Cancer Unit at MK University Hospital 2018.

2019, our biggest project todate, raising £2,605 to sponsor a room in the new YMCA facility and making 30 quilts so that each resident has their own quilt on their journey through the YMCA and back out into the community.