As I bring you my somewhat delayed 7th Report as your Chairman I reflect back on a period of 18 months that has I think been unprecedented in all our memories. In March 2020 the whole country went into a time of national lockdown due to the Covid 19 pandemic and life for all of us took on a whole new perspective as all services except those deemed essential were suspended in an effort to control the spread of the pandemic including those services provided to you our members.
I am not sure any of us expected that some 11 months we would still be in the same situation but that is where we find ourselves and still unsure how long that is going to continue. The shutdown and the changes that it brought presented some challenging conditions for our two new members of staff. Sadly we had said goodbye to Ann Wilson, our Assistant Manager, but happily not only welcomed Mandy Jones as our new manager but also Shu-Ju Lee, who had started as a volunteer, before being appointed as our Club Supervisor. I would like to pay tribute to the way in which both of them rose to the challenge of ensuring that we have stayed in touch over the past 10 months, on a weekly basis with not only our members and their carers, but also with our team of volunteers and they still continue to do so. The Trustees considered it was essential that the staff stayed in touch with you on a weekly basis in order to prevent any social isolation that could have occurred whilst you were unable to visit the club as normal and we hope that this contact has proved beneficial to you all. Keeping the staff employed as we did, without our regular sources of income certainly gave the Trustees some financial challenges of ensuring that the club remained financially solvent during this time and into the future but we still believe this was in your best interests both in the short and long term.
As you are all aware we were in March finalizing our fundraising activities to proceed with our plans to extend the Club premises. We were already making provision for how we would continue to serve our members whilst the building was going to be closed to facilitate the building works. It might seem strange therefore to consider committing in excess of £200,000 on a building project whilst looking to ensure the ongoing financial stability of the club. However the large proportion of our reserves were restricted to the building project and if we had not proceeded we would have had to have pay back the money to those persons who had provided the funds. In May 2020 having received a number of substantial donations the Trustees took the decision to proceed with the project and works commenced in June 2020 on the extension. I would particularly like to put on record our grateful thanks to the Horsham Hospital League of Friends, the Wolfson Trust, the Hope Keith Villagers Trust and the Sussex Masonic Charitable Trust who together provided £165,000 towards the project.
Those works are now substantially complete with just a few snagging issues that the builders are currently addressing and I am pleased to say that we have an impressive extended and refurbished building that provides many new facilities for our members and we look forward to inviting you into the building when conditions allow. I am hopeful that this building will continue to serve the Phoenix Stroke Club for at least the next 40 years.
Whilst the latest phase of the building works are complete we still have to carry out adaptions to the garden areas to make them usable and suitable for our members and we are currently looking at proposals to achieve this and of course how much money we will need to raise to achieve this.
I would in normal circumstances report to you on the activities we have undertaken as a club with you our members, our involvement with the community and in the community. Sadly those activities have all been on hold over the past 10 months, however I believe that our standing and reputation in the community has not diminished. Thankfully we still have a number of individuals and organisations who continue to support us and the Trustees and I are particularly grateful for the financial support that we have received that has enabled the Club to continue albeit remotely.
Matthew will be bringing the accounts to you in a moment and looking at them you may say that we have some very healthy reserves. But I would remind you that these were at the end of March 2020 and mainly relating to the Building Fund and things have changed since then although we are positive going forward that we will remain financially solvent.
Looking at our numbers of Members and Volunteers inevitably the past 12 months has had an impact and regrettably some of our Members and Volunteers have succumbed to Covid 19 and other unrelated health conditions, whilst others due to changes in the health status will not be returning as they move into care. Nevertheless we still have new Members and Volunteers looking to join us once we are able to reopen our doors.
I misguidedly hope that each new year as your Chairman will be easier than the previous year. Well the last year has been very different, different challenges and different pressures. Lockdown provided us with the opportunity to carry out the building project with far less disruption to you the members and volunteers. It also ensured that I have missed many of the things that bring me pleasure such as taking part in some of the activities with you the members that bring fun – especially the tea, biscuits and cake and seeing you all enjoying yourselves and having a go at whatever you have been asked to do. I look forward to being able to do that again very soon.
In its own ways this year has been an extremely busy time not just for me for me but also for a number of the other Trustees. To all my fellow Trustees, but particularly to Don Burstow who has supported me in managing the building project – thank you for putting up with me and for all your support, guidance and encouragement during these challenging times as we have debated the issues and taken the decisions we have had to make.
At this point who knows what the next 12 months will bring for all of us. I am , however, sure it will be a year in the next chapter in the life of the Phoenix Stroke Club supporting stroke survivors and their carers and long may that continue.
Chairman of Trustees
10 February 2021