Rotary in Harpenden CIO is a separate charitable incorporated organisation, registered with the Charities Commission (charity number 1163420). It is responsible for organising and running these community
and fundraising events and activities.
For 22 years we have devised and run the Harpenden Quiz of Quizzes, an ever-popular event staged on a Friday evening in March. Held in St George’s School hall, with refreshments provided, the quiz attracts 30 or more teams of six people. The next Quiz of Quizzes will be held on Friday, 9th March 2018.
As well as giving some 200 quiz enthusiasts an entertaining evening it allows us, through the bar and a raffle, to raise funds for charity. Since the first Quiz of Quizzes was staged in 1996 more than £70,000 has been raised.
Most of the money goes to international causes in which Rotary is actively involved, such as Polio Plus, aimed at eradicating the killer disease from the world. Only in two countries does polio now remain endemic.
Classics on the Common is our flagship event. Since we took over organising the show in 2009, ‘Classics’ has become Britain’s biggest mid-week classic car show and is ranked as one of the top events of the classics calendar.
More than 1,200 classic 4-wheel vehicles, motorcycles and scooters, with over 10,000 admiring spectators, fill Harpenden Common on a Wednesday afternoon in late July.
Charities have benefited, too. Since taking on the event we have raised and distributed more than £200,000 to needy causes. We don’t charge spectators for entry but have an army of bucket collectors encouraging donations. In 2017, despite indifferent weather, we were still able to donate £30,000 to our chosen charities and other causes.
The show is held on a Wednesday in late July, from 2pm to dusk. The ‘Classics’ day involves as many of our members as possible and a further 90 volunteers, many of whom are from other local groups. But organising the show is almost 12 month’s work, involving one-third of our membership, dividing up responsibilities among small teams of two to four members.
The community also benefits as the event brings thousands of spectators to the town. Local pubs, restaurants and shops welcome the day and the show helps raise the profile of Harpenden and Rotary in Harpenden.
We enjoy enthusiastic support from our sponsor, Harpenden Town Council, which is responsible for the Common. We are also grateful for the good working relationships with the police, fire service, local authorities and Highways England.
In 2005 the club revived the tradition of a Santa Float touring the roads of Wheathampstead and district, playing Christmas music, delighting the children and collecting donations from the residents. In that time more than £18,000 has been raised for local charities.
As a prelude to making the rounds, in late November the float, complete with Santa and attendant elves, makes its way though Wheathamstead High Street to MacIntyre Home. There, Santa flicks the switch for the village’s official Christmas Lights Up. He then descends to his specially made grotto to greet and chat to the many youngsters already queuing to meet him.
We have a rota to fill all the jobs associated with the Santa ‘season’ – the Lights Up evening and the seven evenings touring the roads – so that there will always be a float driver, a Santa and a goodly group of ‘elves’ with collecting tins.
A choir drawn from 14 local junior schools provides the music at A Concert for Christmas which we hold in early December each year at High Street Methodist Church.
Performing before an audience of parents, grandparents and siblings the choir alone renders some modern carols, interspersed with several favourite Christmas carols to which audience can add their voices.
A collection is taken for charity. Rotary in Harpenden members also provide and serve refreshments to all the choristers. Printing of the concert programme is funded by advertisements from local businesses.
Drawing on members’ experience of being interviewed for university or a job and, in the course of their careers, interviewing others, Rotary in Harpenden offers school leavers the opportunity to undergo a ‘mock interview’.
Working in pairs and having read the interviewee’s personal statement, Rotary in Harpenden members take the candidate through a 20-minute interview and then give a 10-minute critique of the interviewee’s performance.
Over two evenings each November some 70 students have their interviewing techniques honed in this way. Feedback from them is always positive.
Rotary Youth Speaks, another long-standing nationwide competition, run by Rotary clubs across the country, aims at giving young people an experience in public speaking that will benefit them forever.
In 2011 a team from Roundwood Park School, winners of the Harpenden heat, went on through regional heats to win the national final.
Teams are drawn from senior schools and, depending on their age, compete in junior, intermediate or senior categories. Each team has three members – chairperson, speaker and proposer of the vote of thanks – with the speaker having six minutes to talk on a subject of the team’s choice.
For the Harpenden heat our president is usually one of the three judges. The others are the Town Mayor and an experienced toastmaster.
Imagine having to design, build and test a coin sorter with only wooden dowel, card, square-sectioned wood, rubber bands, modelling material and Sellotape to work with. And you have only fours hours in which to complete the job.
That’s the sort of task facing 90 secondary school students from eight Harpenden and St Albans schools taking part in a Rotary Technology Tournament held at Marlborough Science Academy, St Albans, each spring. We run this event in association with the three St Albans Rotary clubs, with sponsorship from local businesses.
The students work in teams of four, grouped according to age into three competitions – basic, intermediate and advanced. WHSmith gift vouchers are awarded to each winning team.
The judges, drawn from Rotary in Harpenden and the St Albans Rotary clubs, look for evidence of planning, analysis of design constraints, development work, realising and testing performance.
Each year the tournament demonstrates the wide range of innovative ideas and creative technological talent that exists in our local schools.
Our Young Citizen Awards honour teenagers from Harpenden’s secondary schools, and organisations like scouting and guiding, who have been outstanding in reflecting the Rotary motto, Service above Self.
At a dinner we host each May the award winners, chosen by the school or organisation, are accompanied by their parents and are introduced by a senior member of the school or organisation. Each receives a book token and an award certificate.
Additionally, the Bill Hewetson Memorial Award is presented in memory of a former member of the club who gave very active support to the town’s youth.
Award winners demonstrate a strong awareness of others’ needs. As an example, Susi Latham of Sir John Lawes School was heavily involved in raising funds for Oxfam, within the school and outside, and featured in an Oxfam publicity film. In school she helped to stage a ‘Strictly’ event in which teachers were invited to take part. She also organised lessons and led school assemblies on major world issues including Syria. A role model and coach for younger students, she was described as ‘passionate in her service to others.’
Each October we supply up to 10 local junior schools, and scouts and other groups, with specially made Rotary shoeboxes which the youngsters, with their parents’, teachers’ and leaders’ help, fill with toys and household goods to bring some Christmas cheer to orphans and elderly people in Eastern European countries. Each school or group is given a Certificate of Appreciation, recording the number of boxes filled and thanking them for their pupils’ efforts.
As part of a nationwide Rotary Shoebox Scheme, our 1000 or so boxes join those filled by other youngsters from across the UK. In all, nearly 70,000 shoeboxes cross Europe annually in lorries driven by volunteer Rotarians to arrive in time for Christmas.
As with most of our international giving our money or goods are handled by Rotarians in the UK or who are based in the receiving countries. That way, we know our aid will reach the people who need it.
For more information go to www.rotaryshoebox.org