Charity of the Month

The Rotary Club of Evesham Charity of the Month, July 2021:

Freedom Day Centre

You’ll probably have noticed a couple of smart green and yellow minibuses around Evesham and the Vale proudly bearing the name and logo of the Freedom Day Centre.  The Badsey-based group started out in 2016 determined to do something about the loss of regular discos at Evesham’s Marilyn’s Nightclub enjoyed by people in the area with learning disability.  A disused Badsey club with a large room was taken over and the disco ball was back in action on Tuesday evenings.  The Freedom Disco proved to be a huge success, bringing the local learning disability community together and providing a safe and welcoming environment for them to enjoy an evening out.  You might think that would be enough of a success, but Tracey Hemming and her family and friends decided the disco was just the beginning.  The building was available and offered enough space for a bigger operation, and the Freedom Day Centre opened its doors in July 2017.  The vision, energy and determination to overcome all the practical and financial challenges in that timescale can only be imagined. 

The aim of the Centre is to help its service users to gain new skills, grow in independence and become more involved in the community.  They enjoy a variety of activities that meet their educational, social and therapeutic needs.  These include maths, English, science, computer courses, art and design, woodwork, sensory relaxation, swimming, football (Freedom United), gardening with the local church and at the group’s allotment, cooking in the kitchen, working in Café Freedom, and dance and drama which are showcased in public performances.  There are also group outings such as day trips to theme parks, zoos and museums, and they spent a fantastic day at the houses of parliament as guests of our local MP, Nigel Huddleston.   Other developments include a static caravan on the S. Wales coast for service-users or their families to have much-needed breaks.  The two minivans and a people carrier take people to and from the centre and on outings, and are also lent to other local groups,   

[Description: 406B59D5-A101-4DB1-B2A6-133F4E9CE713] Café Freedom is the group’s ‘inclusive’ cafe, and represents a commitment to reaching out and meeting the needs of the community.  Affordably-priced meals are served throughout the week, and all proceeds from the Café help to fund the Day Centre.

In addition to its own fundraising efforts (climb the O2 in London, anyone?)  the Freedom Centre has attracted support from across the community – local authorities, businesses, fund-raisers and generous members of the public.  Tracey says, “We have received a tremendous amount of support from our local community and members of the public, this has enabled us to become a well-established service that now provides a wide range of facilities for everyone to enjoy”.

Covid has severely restricted the services at Freedom Day Centre, but contact has been maintained and plans for the future are afoot.  The latest challenge is to find new premises, as its first home is no longer available.  Watch out for important news on that front and, for contact details or more information, have a look at the website:




The Rotary Club of Evesham Charity of the Month, June 2021 – The Rotary Club of Evesham.

Last month we talked about Evesham Volunteer Centre and the fantastic work done there by local volunteers.  This month the theme continues with another volunteer charity that has been active in our town for over 70 years and now - The Rotary Club of Evesham (RCoE).  Rotary’s guiding principle is ‘Service Above Self’ and, for over 100 years, clubs around the world have put that ideal into practice.  Rotarians are typically people who want to put something back into their communities by raising funds or putting in the hours with local charities and community groups.  They also enjoy one another’s company and having fun. 

People in Evesham and the Vale probably know Rotary best through the Tree of Light, which has raised about £ 250k for local and Rotary charities over the last 22 years.  But RCoE is constantly working on current and new projects to support directly, or through other local groups, the vulnerable and disadvantaged in our community.  The list of those helped over the years is too long to cover here - (several have already been the subject of previous Charity of the Month articles and Facebook posts) - but this month’s weekly Facebook posts will give some idea of the range and diversity of the two clubs’ work. 

The clever thing about Rotary is that, while the organisation is based on all those clubs serving their own communities, it also raises central funds that achieve amazing things.  Large-scale programmes like global polio eradication, hospital ships, peace fellowships, schools and education, water aid, disease prevention, disaster response – the list goes on.  A feature unique to Rotary is that all money collected is used for the intended purpose – no admin or other costs are taken out.  Local clubs at the other end of the project make sure of that.  Any club or Rotarian with an international interest can use, or contribute to, the organisation’s presence worldwide. 

We’re lucky now to have two Rotary clubs in Evesham with the start-up three years ago of Rotary in the Vale (RitV).  The clubs have different styles, meeting times and project ideas, although the two clubs support one another when necessary.  So someone looking for something rewarding and interesting to do in their spare time or in retirement might find RCoE the best bet, while someone who works or has limited time in the day would be more likely to find RitV suits their needs.  Meeting times and styles differ, so anyone interested should contact both clubs to find out more at:


RitV: on Facebook or in Messenger @rotaryinthevale 



Evesham Volunteer Centre (EVC) has provided a crucial lifeline for elderly and vulnerable people across the Vale for over 35 years. Covering 23 rural parishes plus the town itself, EVC normally has around 200 volunteers directly involved with the Centre providing a range of community services: volunteer drivers for those without access to transport; lunch and social clubs for the elderly; weekly phone calls to those who live alone; or spending an hour or two with someone in their own home and having a chat to alleviate isolation.  EVC also helps and advises in the set-up and running of small rural community and voluntary groups.  It also acts as an information agency for people wishing to volunteer for other charities and runs a ‘one-stop-volunteering-shop’ in the Riverside Centre.

One of the most popular services is the community transport scheme.  In normal times, around 60 volunteer drivers clock up well over 100,000 miles a year in total for clients who have no other means of getting to places on their own such as hospitals, dentists, opticians and shops.  The Centre also runs the POPI Project (Promoting Older People’s Independence), the aim of which is to help older people in the Evesham area to maintain a supported but independent lifestyle and thereby enhance their quality of life.  Clients get help and advice, weekly home visits where appropriate through the ‘Good Neighbour’ scheme, regular telephone contact for those who prefer this, and a very successful monthly lunch club.

Many of EVC’s regular volunteers fell into the Covid-vulnerable category, but fortunately, from the moment lockdown was announced, people rang up to volunteer.  247 new volunteers were taken on, the majority of them on furlough.  Just as well!  The increase in demand is striking.  Just some examples: from about 8 accompanied shopping trips to 84 shopper-drivers; from 1 or 2 prescription deliveries a week to 200 prescriptions per day; the telephone befriending call scheme extended by 100 calls a week;  over 5,000 phone calls from people needing help and advice and signposted as appropriate.  On a lighter note, digital TV aerials fixed; jam jars, knitting wool and jigsaw puzzles sourced; strawberry and veg plants found for those digging for England; birthday cakes made and delivered; and a zoom birthday party for a 100 year-old person organised. 

A great community spirit has prevailed and firm friendships have been made.  While many of the new volunteers have returned to work, many have asked to remain ‘on the books’ in case of future need and others have stayed with EVC and continue to volunteer.  Manager Helen Gray says:  “With the exception of the prescription deliveries I can't see the direct services we are offering stopping any time soon.  Despite the easing of restrictions many people are still wary of going out and have no wish to face the shops.  With family keeping away through either concern or geographical distance we expect to continue to have to help for some time to come.  Telephone befriending remains high on the list”.

E’mail contact for EVC is:


Rotary Club of Evesham Charity of the Month, April 2021: Evesham Vale Cardiac Rehab.

This month’s charity has a number of familiar features.  Once again, it started with an individual with a mission; once again, a clear need existed that was not being met by existing public provision; and once again, there were real challenges in getting something done.  Gerry O’Donnell, a relative newcomer to Evesham, knew from personal experience the critical importance of supervised, regular exercise for people with heart problems or recovering from heart surgery.  Heart disease is the major course of UK deaths, and especially prevalent in males.  A community that lacked a local resource for people with heart problems was therefore a challenge that had to be addressed.

As chairman of the Evesham Market Town Partnership Committee, Gerry approached the Worcestershire Primary Care Trust and discussions led to an agreement that, if the Committee could find suitable premises, the Trust would supply the appropriate medical support.  This was forthcoming from the Worcestershire Acute Trust, which supplied specialist staff to deliver Phase 3 rehab classes.  Evesham Rowing Club stepped up and offered free space, and a pilot scheme was set up in May 2009.  After a slow start, the classes got busy with a stream of discharged cardiac patients referred from the Worcestershire Acute Trust and some GP referrals.  Demand for the initial programme of cardiac rehab (phase 3) was steady, but the next, more advanced phase 4 soon reached capacity and  became too large for the Rowing Club space.

After further lobbying and much discussion, the facility was moved to Evesham Leisure Centre where there was space for larger groups.  However, it would not be free, although the Centre offered discounted rates.  Next step?  Charitable status for Evesham Vale Cardiac Rehab, and fundraising – a very different challenge.  The mission?  Accessible, exercise-based rehab for survivors of heart attacks and those who have undergone heart surgery, enabling them to recover full fitness, regain confidence and return to a full life and role in society; also to promote cardiovascular health through exercise and healthy living.

More recently, the importance now attached to Cardiac Rehab was demonstrated by the decision to add more exercise space and machines at the Leisure Centre to accommodate the demand.  To quote cardiac nurse Sally Blowing: “Evesham Cardiac Rehab has probably got the best rehab accommodation in Worcestershire, insofar as it is a dedicated, enclosed studio space, air-conditioned, spacious, has a good integrated sound system and a very pleasant Leisure Centre environment”.  

Evesham Vale Cardiac Rehab is now an established charity organising events to promote healthy living and raising money to cover its activities.  People can find out more from trustee John Darby at:



The Rotary Club of Evesham Charity of the Month, March 2021: Evesham Street Pastors.

This month’s charity shows, once again, the rich variety of work that volunteers in our community undertake for others.  Street Pastors started in London in 2003 with the aim of confronting urban problems on the streets in a Christian spirit of caring, listening and helping.  The idea spread, and today there are 250 teams around the UK with 9,000 volunteers.  Evesham Street Pastors is a registered charity run by and from the town’s churches, and its work focuses on those weekend nights when the town centre is full of mainly young people out to enjoy themselves.  On Friday or Saturday nights, and ‘Super Sundays’ before bank holidays, between 10.00 pm and around 3.00 am      teams of trained volunteers are on the streets equipped with those things that experience has shown are most needed – water, flip-flops and……lollipops: water for dehydration, flip-flops for young women who so frequently lose their shoes and risk serious injury from broken glass, and lollipops, a potent symbol of goodwill and de-fuser of tension or conflict.  Back at base, another team keeps vigil and prays for the work of patrolling colleagues.

The majority of people Street Pastors meet are new friends, generally younger and going through a period of their lives before responsibilities for family and jobs take over.  The desire for fun brings with it inter-personal and other risks, often in combination, which some people are unable to deal with: too much to drink, the novelty of drugs, emotional upset in their lives, a personal falling-out, employment, or lack of employment, problems.  Practical help where and when these risks are most apparent can be crucial.  There are others who have longer-term challenges, where active listening is needed.  It is one of the privileges of Street Pastors’ work to share their stories, and sometimes, months or years later, to meet people who express their thanks for the help they received.  The power of calm, non-judgmental listening from a stranger is the key to this aspect of Street Pastors’ work.  They are also able to direct people to relevant specialist advice and give cards, sponsored by Evesham Rotary Club, with contact details.

The town centre has been quiet during the Covid restrictions but the usual social problems still exist, aggravated by the effects of the pandemic.  People’s lives and businesses will continue to struggle for a long time.  Evesham Street Pastors decided to continue to pray, weekly and on a rota basis, for the town and the people they would usually meet. They also continue to be available via telephone and email as a listening ear.  Those who feel able still patrol on a limited and cautious basis, and this has been well received.  Good Covid practices are followed.  Instead of the usual hugs, promises of hugs in the future are given – there is a huge backlog of hugs to be cleared when hugs are OK again. 

Funding for Evesham Street Pastors comes from churches in the area, personal and small group donors, the police, whose Police & Crime Commissioner is now the main funder through Wychavon District Council, Evesham Town Council and the John Martin Charity.  There’s more information on the website:      or e’mail:




Charity of the Month, February 2021 - Evesham Abbey Trust

After 480 years there have been stirrings around the site of Evesham’s long lost abbey.  There has been, in the past, the odd bit of stone theft, some archaeological investigation and much speculation about what the whole complex must have looked like - the remains, magnificent though they are, cannot, by themselves, reflect the past magnificence of this 300 feet-high, working abbey.  Tourists, like residents, have always been perplexed by the huge gap in Evesham’s historical and architectural heritage.  When Barrie Baldelli and Tony Haugh, hacking round the Vale golf course, were chatting about what should or could be done about it, they were probably dreaming.  But now, after six years of hard work and many challenges, and with the Rudge family’s extraordinary gift of crucial abbey precinct land, and with funding secured for the next three years, the Evesham Abbey Trust programme of investigation and conservation is up and running.  Sponsors and funders include the Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic England, Wychavon DC and Evesham Town Council.

The Trustees’ plans have many different aspects: funding, finances, conservation, project and technical investigations, archaeology, education, public engagement, volunteers – the list goes on.  For now, the focus will be meeting local fund-raising targets, continued recruitment and training of the volunteer force and getting started on the major stages of work: extending the conservation work, and research and archaeology.  Beyond that, with more funding required, will be the planning and delivery of a series of gardens based on the cloisters, nave and abbey grounds.  It will be truly wonderful if, at that stage, the final funding can be secured to fill that great hole in Evesham’s heritage with something that will attract and inspire future generations of locals and visitors.

Volunteers – and money - are always welcome, either for hands-on or clerical and administrative work.  Get in touch with Barrie or his colleagues at