Category Archives: DISTRICT News

DG’s Blog April 6 2020


This week Linda Piggott of the Ilminster Club participated in the first of what will now be twice weekly updates, held by video conference to keep everyone informed of developments. The tone of the hour-long briefing was one of positivity and mutual collective support to find ways of accessing maximum resources and sharing of information to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 in this area.

• As of Fri. 3rd April there had been 1,000 cases in the South West, and a total of 126 deaths in the area (9 of which were in Somerset).
• Government legislation has now been passed to enable virtual meetings to take place. It is expected that scheduled SCC meetings will re-commence in May.
• Concern has been raised about the inability of residents and family members to be able to attend funerals of loved ones. Both Taunton and Yeovil crematoriums have the facility to webcam services if required.
• Because Covid-19 has been declared a ‘Major Incident’ a local resilience forum has been set up to coordinate activity.
• Most SCC staff are now working from home, with many working 7 days per week at this time. Those working in child protection are on 24-hour standby, fully aware of the impact on families that this crisis is likely to have and are ready to handle the situation.
• Routine adult social care visits are not being made at present, and where necessary partner organisations are being asked to take on this commitment for urgent cases.
• Easter Sunday is when the number of cases across the UK is expected to reach its peak, with the SW seeing its peak approx. two weeks later, towards the end of April. It is vital that in the interim we all continue to take the necessary precautions to ensure our safety and that of others around us.
• As far as Easter is concerned the message for Somerset is please, please do NOT come to visit our county. The county is closed for Easter.
• It is intended that schools remain open over the Easter holiday period to continue to provide necessary childcare for key workers.
• A new waste/recycling contract is now in place but the intended increase in recycling activity is on hold for the present time.
• SCC are taking on infection control duties for reportable diseases to help to ease the burden on the NHS.
• A number of staff have been re-deployed to other duties, including 50 to the Registration Service to support staff responsible for registering deaths, which can now be done online.
• Two former care homes have been re-opened (Yeovil, Wellington) to provide 100+ beds to enable recovering patients to be moved from hospital to free up beds. 60 volunteers have come forward to staff the properties, including hotel staff, who will provide meals.
• PPE is in extremely short supply across the county and the resilience forum is working hard to source the necessary supplies, including 1200 rolls of plastic aprons. County Hall is to be used as a distribution centre, with support from the volunteer army.
• Military assistance is being sought for assistance with body storage.
• 1.5 million vulnerable people have been identified as requiring support nationally, and support cells have been set up. Both district and county councils are stepping in to provide any necessary intervention for residents and businesses while details of the national response to coordinate support is awaited.
• Across the county 5 warehouses are ready for action, with 1,000 food parcels ready to go.
• £15.68m has been received from central government towards putting in place the measures required to deal with Covid-19. There is likely to be a shortfall of around £1m and MPs are lobbying for an increase in funds.
• There is an awareness of the need to support business recovery in the aftermath of Covid-19 and planning for that is underway,
• Several local town and parish councils have put aside money to help those in need, and various schemes are in place to enable people to shop who may not have ready access to money. ‘Square Point of Sale’ is being used in some areas to facilitate this.

What we as a District are doing.

Chrissie Bailey is logging what our clubs are doing so please let her know how you are meeting and what projects you are undertaking. Or of course you could post your projects on Rotary Showcase and log effort in Rotary Club Central – all available from your MyRotary account.

Whilst we are busy helping our local communities, spare a thought for other poor parts of the world such as Nepal, Syria and Yemen where there are no local resources.

Mental health.

This is becoming increasingly an issue as people try to cope with the lock down environment. Please help Mind, Samaritans and Citizens Advice Bureaux if you can.

Online website training.

Whilst many of us are at home most of the time, Chris Sweeney thought it would be a good opportunity to provide some online website training to fellow club and district administrators,
He proposes to run a series of 30-minute sessions, at 2pm Monday-Friday, for the week commencing 13th April. Members need not attend all sessions but pick and choose relevant topics. He would like to receive suggestions for topics from Rotarians over the next week. Please email him direct ( with details of topics you’d like covered. The sessions will take place using Zoom software.

On a positive note.

Members are now using modern technology. One of my personal objectives this year was to “Update Rotary” and many clubs are now using modern technology and social media to communicate and hold meeting.

Meetings held via Zoom or WhatsApp mean there are no costs involved for members and people from all over the world can join in or be the speaker. One club recently had the RI President Mark Maloney as speaker. Rotary truly does Connect the World. The “saved” meal costs can then be used to support local food banks and other local charities that are in much demand in the current circumstances.

Best wishes and stay safe. Dennis

Weston Rotary Club meets on the internet

Zoom Meeting 3-4-20Our first ever Friday meeting on Zoom, twenty five participants, a bit chaotic but great fun and some business done. Is this the future?

DG’s Blog 30 March 2020

Community support.

I am receiving reports that clubs are helping their communities wherever they can. I know that Taunton Vale are helping their local Halcon community with food and many other clubs are supporting their local food banks. Donating the cost of forgone Rotary meals to local food banks is an ideal way to support your local community. Other clubs doing similar things that I am aware of include Frome, Frome Town and Yeo Vale. There is a small amount of District Grant DDF still available which may be used in helping local food banks. It will be allocated on a first come basis so if you would like to augment your donations please contact Stan Jones.

Penny Underwood receiving her Paul Harris Fellowship certificate that was awarded virtually at the Forum.


The Emergency Volunteer Action Group is on a second-degree standby with a possibility of a call for help from the authorities, along with other voluntary organisations. In the meantime, many Clubs are operating successfully in providing support at local level. Clubs which are seeking the route to providing local support could access and find the link to SPARK. (EVAG is represented on 2 committees of Somerset Prepared). Dorset: access and follow the ‘Community Involvement’ tab. If you have any queries, contact – David Welch who will respond on behalf of EVAG. Dorset: Contact Joseph Swindell

Justin Sargent of Somerset Community Foundation has written.

“We have now launched our Somerset Coronavirus Appeal and it would be great if Rotary Clubs felt able to support this. As you will appreciate local charities and community organisations are needed more than ever. They know where the most vulnerable are in their communities and can help ensure the right support reaches them at the right time. Funding them while their own income sources are under strain will make a critical difference. (I recognise that the District covers other areas outside of Somerset, but our neighbouring CFs will also be running funds).

In terms of practical support, I imagine by now your members will also be aware of local grassroots action taking place and tapped into that. We would certainly welcome being made aware of opportunities to use funding to support effective initiatives run by local charities and community organisations (although we are not yet seeking unsolicited applications until sufficient funds are in place).” See

RYLA Report.

There is an excellent report by John Mander on this year’s RYLA on the Circa 1200 online magazine. See


Unfortunately, Somerton & District inauguration has been delayed for three months. We are all looking forward to this event.

International Humanitarian Service.

Whilst we are all in lock down there is still a need for Rotary works to carry on.

Shelter box appeal for Syria. See

Food Plant Solutions Rotary Action Group (FPSRAG) has been asked to provide educational materials for families in Cambodia, Cameroon, Uganda, Nepal, Tanzania, Vietnam and Ethiopia, to enable them to assist their communities to develop gardens to tackle malnutrition and ensure food security. To do this the FPSRAG need assistance from clubs to raise about $48,000 in total. For more information go to

Zoom tips.

I know many of you are using Zoom to continue to hold meetings. Meetings for up to 40 minutes for up to 100 attendees are free. Find out more from We have been using this software in the District for the last couple of years. One tip is to use the Personal ID meeting number when calling meetings, this means that the attendees who have downloaded the app will be able to join by clicking on the list of previous meetings.

Best wishes and stay safe, Dennis

RYLA 2020 Report

Rotary Young Leadership Awards 2020

Held at the Dartmoor Training Centre from 15th – 21st February 2020

To read the full report click here.  


Registered charity no. 1168765

In recent teleconferences with Somerset & Dorset civil authorities and voluntary agencies, it became clear that County Authorities are preparing for a substantial increase in cases in the South West, stating that we are 2 weeks behind London on that dreaded curve.  They are preparing to appeal to organisations such as Rotary to assist in a number of roles.

We have made a declaration to both Somerset and Dorset authorities as follows –

Thank you for notifying us of a possible inclusion of voluntary agencies in the organisation of the response to the current virus crisis.
Rotary & Inner Wheel are in a position to offer help in the areas of activity you have listed – deliveries to the isolated vulnerable, phone call checks, and ‘phoning from home

We can add an additional activity – our members are professionals with good organising and planning abilities. A further addition is the willingness to assist in the organisation of much-needed food banks – especially if school closures expose poorer families who need to substitute school meals.  

Of course, we have many members of the vulnerable age group, so protection and safeguarding of those members will be a priority. We must take great care on that issue.’

During the teleconference it was clearly stated that dynamic risk assessment would be a constant to ensure that members of all of voluntary organisations – especially the vulnerable group members – would not expose themselves to risk.

The result is that we are on a second degree standby with a possibility of a call for help from the authorities, along with other voluntary organisations.   In the meantime so many Clubs are operating successfully in providing support at local level – long may it continue.

Clubs which are seeking the route to providing local support could access and find the link to SPARK. (We are represented on 2 committees of Somerset Prepared). Dorset: access and follow the ‘Community Involvement’ tab.

IF you have any queries contact – David Welch who will respond on behalf of EVAG. Dorset: Contact Joseph Swindell


DG’s Blog 23 March 2020


You know you are old when one of your neighbours puts a note through your door offering you help. This happened to me twice last week and of course like many other Rotarians I am in the “at risk” group. It is odd when I feel that I should be the one offering help to others. It is vital that we all take notice of the Government guidelines to try to restrict the spread of the virus but there are still things we can do.

The Emergency Volunteer Action Group is in contact with Somerset County Council regarding the possible inclusion of voluntary agencies in the organisation of the response to the current virus crisis. They are offering help with deliveries to the isolated vulnerable, phone call checks, providing information and possible help with organising and planning. A further addition might include assistance in the organisation of food banks. A letter will be sent to all clubs but if you would like more information contact David Welch

Lorraine Wong has written “You will be aware of the challenges the NHS is facing to prepare for the peak in Coronavirus.  Some guidance has just been issued to support the rapid discharge of patients to free up hospital beds.   The arrangements identify the significant role that the voluntary sector can play and NHS England is setting up a new scheme to identify volunteers able to support the NHS led by the Royal Voluntary Service using the GoodSAM app as the digital platform.  Perhaps we could encourage able Rotarians (i.e. those not in the vulnerable groups) to register with the RVS and download the app.” For more information contact Lorraine

One of my initial objectives for this year was to help combat loneliness. This is even more important in the current circumstances when our own members are likely to suffer from the lack of social contact. Please do all you can to maintain contact by telephone or other technology with your members and others in the community.

Food Banks. Another idea is to donate our savings in meal costs from cancelled meetings to local food bank

District Forum.

New ground was broken on Saturday when we held our Forum via Zoom for the first time. We had 84 devices connected with another 4 people sharing devices and Jenny’s dog joined the first Zoom District Forum.

District business. Items on the agenda included approval of the 2019/19 accounts and the budget for 2020/21. Please get your secretaries to send in your votes in favour/ against approving both of these.

We celebrated a number of significant Club Anniversaries- see slide attached.

Penny Underwood was then presented with a Paul Harris Fellowship for her work serving District, starting a new club and her involvement in one the District’s most successful projects Sherborne Classic & Supercars.   Well done Penny, greatly deserved.

Conference 2020. Rory O’Donnell gave an update on the scheduled Conference still currently planned for 4 July. You can watch the video from the District website.

Young Carers. Alison Adlam, Chair of Friends of Somerset Young Carers then told us about the important work they do. See the website for more details.

Under Parish Notices a brief session was held about ideas on how Rotary could help in the current circumstances. See above.

Frome Town approach to membership. Karl Waldeck told the meeting how they attract young members and showed the film made by RGBI about the club that can be seen here. More information is available from Karl

Foundation. Ken Robertshaw joined us from Yorkshire to remind us all about our charity and gave a great overview with special emphasis on the Peace Scholars, an area close to his heart.

Breakout sessions. Those interested in the Foundation session then joined a separate meeting hosted by Tony Quinn. The main session then had a discussion on membership led by Ric Canham and then Rory O’Donnell explained the main messages for 2020-21 from the International Assembly.


What could be my last physical club visit was last Monday when Jill and I visited Bridgwater. I think that they were rather overwhelmed as not only I but DGN Michael Fernando and DGNN Ric Canham we’re also visiting. Thanks to President Mike and the club for the hospitality.

My diary has of course been decimated but I am available to join online club meetings – just send me an invitation.


With our face to face meeting cancelled for the next few weeks, Zoom would be a good tool to use to keep in touch with family, friends, club members and others in the community. It is totally free for meetings up to 40 minutes. Here is a link to help you get the most from Zoom

Best wishes and stay safe.


Registered charity no. 1168765

Many Clubs have declared a desire to provide community support during the current crisis – a crisis which unlike many others, may be in an acute form for a prolonged period.

Additionally, Somerset County Council (SCC) has appealed to voluntary organisations for support in deliveries to the isolated vulnerable, phone call checks, providing information. We have also reminded the SCC that we have organisation & planning skills. We know that voluntary manpower is needed to support food bank organisation. (If schools close there will be pressure on poorer families who lose the benefit of school meals.)

Of course, some Clubs have already acted and offered support to your communities.

EVAG is now appealing to Rotary Clubs who wish to be involved in a coordinated District 1200 response to come forward and in doing so, nominate a Club response officer with whom we would communicate. (Particularly important as the crisis duration will include the period when Presidents and Officers change.)

EVAG has links within a number of networks with whom we work, train and plan. We can quickly link Clubs to the points of need.

EVAG has in place the necessary plans and templates to assist Clubs to respond. Safeguarding guidelines are particularly important – so many of us are classed as ‘vulnerable’.

This note is just an initial invitation to identify those Rotary Clubs which wish to contribute. Of course further information, communication and planning will follow.

Please send your responses to David Welch who will share them with fellow EVAG members.



Young Musician – District 1200 Final

The District 1200 Final of Rotary Young Musician took place on Sunday 15 March at Kings of Wessex Academy, Cheddar. Usually there would be a dozen entrants but coronavirus worries, and a bereavement, reduced the field to seven.

All entrants, with the three professional adjudicators.


All performers sang or played to an excellent standard and it was a most enjoyable afternoon of music-making. The Vocalist First Place went to Ellen Steward (representing the Taunton Club) with Hermione Hunt (Wellington) as Runner Up.


DG ELECT Rory O’Donnell with the two Georges, Joint Winners of Rotary Young Musician Instrumentalist Award.

In the Instrumentalist Section the adjudicators awarded First Place jointly to George Knowles (Tuba, representing Taunton) and George Blundell (trombone, also representing Taunton); the Runner Up was Yuying Fan (piano, representing Mendip).


Sadly none of these talented youngsters will be able to go forward to the Regional and National Finals as this was the last such occasion before coronavirus has caused the cancellation of all Rotary Youth activities.

Normal service, we hope, will resume for next year’s competitions. We have 55 Clubs in D1200 but very few were represented in Young Musician. Nationally it is a most prestigious competition and it only needs one music-loving Rotarian in a Club to do something about it and we could be overwhelmed with entries! Do think about it for next year!

Report by Alan Reeve

DGs Blog 16 March 2020

District Forum Saturday 21 March.

As you will have seen, we have decided to cancel the face to face meeting at Stanchester Academy and hold the meeting via Zoom instead. To join the meeting on Saturday please click the following link If you do not have the necessary technology, you can join by telephone by dialling 02030512874 and then entering the meeting reference 8184662099#.

Whilst there is currently no advice from the Government to cancel meetings, because our members are mainly in the “at risk” group several clubs are deciding to cancel meetings for the new few weeks. In the absence direct Governmental advice to cancel meetings it really up to each club to decide what they wish to do but in the circumstances it is probably sensible to cancel meetings for the time being. In any case attendance is likely to be down as individuals make their own decisions.


We should make every effort to maintain contact with our members and our communities without taking any unnecessary health risks and we can of course do this via telephone and the various video conferencing applications that are available to us. Zoom is an application that allows online meetings of up to 100 attendees for up to 40 minutes for free. Download the free app from

Volunteer Expo and National Youth Finals.

RGBI has decided to postpone the Expo until next year and this years national Youth Finals have been cancelled.

District 1090.

Jill and I spent a very enjoyable weekend at District 1090, Thames Valley, Conference at Newbury Racecourse where we heard some excellent speakers including Geoff Mackey and Steve Brown ex captain of GB wheelchair rugby team and now Countryfile presenter.

Wessex Youth Education classrooms.

Margaret Gilmour, the president of Frome, has written to let me know that the whole fleet of 9 Wessex Youth Education classrooms need refurbishment at a cost for each classroom of £12000. The educational units (In effect fully equipped caravans) move around our district working with local schools in educating children between the ages of 3 and 13. Using electronic and visual equipment they explain the importance of looking after your body in healthy eating, lifestyle and the drawbacks in abuse of alcohol and drugs (age related materials are of course applied). Wiltshire clubs have already agreed to fund one classroom and the Frome Club is hoping with the help of clubs in the district to do the same. For more information contact Margaret or visit

Best wishes, Dennis

DG’s Blog 9 March 2020


I know that it is on everyone’s mind, what should we do about it and our events. RGBI has set up a page with the latest advice. In this respect, the Rotary GB&I Support Centre recommends that Rotarians, clubs and districts within GB&I follow the guidance of the Department of Health & Social Care and Public Health England announcements made on the website and the World Health Organisation. The website is updated at 2.00pm daily. The website gives information for the public on the outbreak of coronavirus, including the current situation in the UK and information about the virus and its symptoms. See

Should we cancel our meetings and events?

Currently the advice is for most people to continue to go to work, school and other public places. District and club leaders are encouraged to use their discretion when it comes to club and district meetings and events, and Rotary programs and activities. If the guidance from or the World Health Organisation discourage or prohibit gathering or traveling because of the risk of spreading COVID-19, follow their recommendations.

A poem by Spike Milligan.


With all the doom and gloom about this caught my eye on FaceBook and thought you might like it.

Rotaract week.

March 9-16 is World Rotaract week

Water and sanitation month.

March is the month when Rotary International focuses on Water & Sanitation – one of our core six areas of focus.

Young Voices.

This is a version of the Youth Speaks competition for those aged between 4-10 and is run by the Clubs of Ilminster and Langport & Somerton. This year over one hundred students took part from 9 schools with the top four in Years R-2 and Years 3-5 coming together for the final last Tuesday at Greenfylde First School, Ilminster. Each entrant was given a 2-minute window and discouraged from using notes, support material or costumes to speak about “People who have inspired me”. The young man who won the junior group spoke about Rowan Atkinson and made everyone laugh and the young lady who won the senior group spoke about Freda Kahlo, the Mexican artist who was a polio survivor. A fantastic evening.

Best wishes, Dennis

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