Friends and family
Rotary Club of Maidenhead Bridge, Berkshire, England
Original membership: 25
Current membership: 48
Club innovation: Biweekly meetings at a local coffee shop have an air of informality and flexibility along with an emphasis on being family-friendly, with members often bringing their children. They even give the kids roles to play in club meetings, helping nurture the next generation of Rotarians. In keeping with the family-friendly focus, club members serve as marshals at local festivities that are a hallmark of this fun-loving town.
A bridge to the future: When it was built in the 1830s, the Maidenhead Railway Bridge, which connects communities across the Thames River, was declared a marvel of engineering. The Rotary Club of Maidenhead Bridge, formed to accommodate the schedules of young professionals and parents with young children, also engineers connections across the community, cultures, and generations. Members emphasize hands-on service and routinely log about 2,000 cumulative volunteer hours each year. They set aside at least as much time for play.
Several charter members of the Rotary Club of Maidenhead Bridge had been members of the Rotaract Club of Maidenhead. “We hit 30 and we asked ourselves, ‘What are we going to do now?’ ” says Lisa Hunter, charter president of the Rotary club. “We started talking about what we wanted Rotary to be for us. The main club in town met at lunchtime, and for those of us with careers and young children, it didn’t really work. And we needed to be family-friendly so that members could bring little ‘members’ along.”
Hunter’s daughter, Chloe, 7, has been attending meetings since she was born. Like the 10 or so children who usually show up, “she is very much in tune with helping other people,” Hunter says. “As they get older we’ve given them jobs to do,” including handing out birthday cards and helping with announcements. “They also help us drum up sales at community events. It’s quite something. They are future salespeople.”
A signature community initiative has heightened the club’s exposure and forged bonds with other local groups. “There are a lot of charities that are starting up and need support,” Hunter says, such as the Thames Valley Adventure Playground, which caters to children with physical and learning disabilities, and Family Friends, an organization that aids people who are facing hardship.
Club members used their business know-how to help Foodshare, a nonprofit providing food and assistance to those in need, expand operations and reduce waste by better organizing its shelves. “Several of their members are regular – and popular – volunteers at our food bank and have organized regular collections of shopper donations from a local supermarket,” says Lester Tanner, a trustee of Foodshare Maidenhead. “It’s good to know that there is another organization with so much goodwill and capability that we can call on.”
While doing serious work in the community, the club has a flair for the irreverent, says Hunter. Every year, as a fundraiser for The Rotary Foundation, the club organizes a 24-hour event featuring 24 challenges that members have to tackle. “We’ll start at 8 a.m. on a Saturday and go to 8 a.m. Sunday. There’s quite a lot of physical activities and some mental ones. Origami at 3 a.m. is probably one of the most difficult I’ve ever done,” she says.
“One lovely byproduct of the event was the team building, getting to know fellow members better and having fun at the same time.”
The amusements are part of the club design. “I think it’s the flexibility of our meetings that has fostered growth,” Hunter says. “Don’t be scared or put off by change. Rotary can be what we want it to be.” — Brad Webber