A Bit About Us
We have been very fortunate as a Club to have found so many people who have made a difference to so many lives. It is impossible to name everyone who has been involved with The Heather Club over the last 40 years. However, it would be remiss not to mention Norma Dean, who in addition to being a longstanding Trustee and Volunteer has special responsibility for fund raising. Similarly, we are indebted to the Rev Colin Cartwright who took over as Chairp in 2017 and has led the Trust until recently handing over to Michael Rowan.
In writing this potted history, it is obvious to me that the more things change, the more they stay the same and that the same challenges that faced Trustees and Volunteers over the past 40 years
continue to face us today.
The Heather Club will be 40 years old in 2021 and now, more than ever, our services are needed, especially as we understand so much more about memory loss. We are continuously seeking new ways to stay connected with our Members and offer them, and their Carers the support they need. We are confident that our current Trustees and Volunteers are up to the challenge.
How we began
Joan Betteridge and June Street, two pioneering and visionary ladies started discussing the potential for opening a day care centre for people suffering from memory loss at a time when very few people thinking about how the sufferers of memory loss and their carers could be supported. In 1981, memory loss was pretty much overlooked as an inevitable part of aging. However, in 1982 a research document called ‘The Rising Tide’ began to highlight the potential for Dementia becoming a major medical concern and with the vision and tenacity of the founders of the Club, progress was made.
On November 30th 1981, The Heather Club doors opened to it’s first 3 Members. Joan and June had spent previous months discussing what was possible with the local Churches in Hemel Hempstead, along with taking inspiration from The Sycamore Club in Amersham.
The two pioneers realised that their vision for a place of care for people living with memory loss needed to be a place run with sensitivity and empathy. This included providing transport, meals and therapeutic activities. They engaged the help of Eileen Scholes, who had started the Sycamore Club, along with Dr Mortimer, the community health physician to ensure all services were appropriate for the Members.
The Doors are Open!
The Rev Stuart Warren and his wife Joan kindly offered to be the first Chairman and Organiser respectively. Their commitment to attending training courses and working closely with Colin Bloodworth, a community Psychiatric Nurse working in Dacorum, ensured that they were providing suitable and effective activities for the members.
The new minister of Carey Baptist Church, the Rev Bob Smart was kind enough to take up the role of Chairman of the Club, with Harold Ebdon as the Hon Treasurer.
The Early Days
These first days were spent fund raising, profile raising and organising the Club. Dennis acted as Transport Coordinator along with Harold Ebdon as escort, they shared the responsibility of the minibus. With the help of Volunteers the Club expended to 5 Members and we were in business! Meals on Wheels originally solved the problem of mealtime. However with the support of Mission 80, a cooker was purchased and with the wonderful aroma of cakes baked for members to take home, a nutritional midday meal was cooked, served and enjoyed.
At this time Joan Betteridge having retired from the Day Centre, assumed the role of Organiser, and was joined by Pru Normand.
The Rev Bob Smart retired after 20 years as Chairman and Joan Tomblin continued as Vice Chair, Barbara Boyd as Club Leader and driver and Gwen Ivory as Club Secretary, with another 5 people on the management committee.The Club was quite unique at this time having no salaried staff, thus all the funding went towards providing a heavily subsidised service to the Members.
Joan Tomblin retired as acting Chair and June Street returned as Chairperson, Rev Stephen Wood, the Minister of Carey became the Vice Chair. At this time the Club costs were being met by Volunteers, with the majority coming from Hert’s Adult Care Services.
The Volunteer staff needed to pass the baton and their experience and knowledge on to a new generation of leaders and helpers. A bold move in the 2007 AGM was taken to advertise for a salaried Club Leader. Kathleen McLeod offered her expertise as Club Treasurer and Jean Berry was appointed as new Club Leader. At this time the number of Volunteers and Members increased to 15. New activities were now introduced, including dancing.
We then welcomed Diane Line as Club Leader in January 2009. In the same year 2 Heather Club stalwarts June Street and Gwen Ivory retired. Stephen Wood became acting Chairman, Gwen stayed for a while to help with the many policies and documents needed to run a modern public charity. The secretarial work was handed to Anthony Donovan who had been appointed in January as second Driver and Club helper. Suzanne moved on later in 2009 and Fabian Mills was appointed as second salaried driver as by now the number of Volunteers had increased and 2 minibuses were needed to meet the growing demand.
The AGM agreed to the proposal of opening for a second day, this was achieved in April 2012, an idea, interestingly, first discussed in 1983. In 2017,Diane Line left as Club Leader on 30 June 2017 and was replaced by Anthony Donovan.
Kathleen McLeod having contributed strongly to the development of the club and having acted as Treasurer and Trustee, left in 2019 and was replaced as Honorary treasurer by Tony Tagent. The Rev Colin Cartwright after chairing the Club for 3 years passed the baton on to Michael Rowan and our story continues...