Dewsbury club could close in summer

AFTER nearly 100 years, Dewsbury Rotary Club is on the brink of closure.

Unless there is an influx of new and younger members, the organisation, which has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for good causes, will close in the summer.

Membership is down to fewer than 20 and the task of running the once-thriving club is becoming hard for those who are left.

Sickened president Dudley Ward said: “We are desperate for new people. Without an influx, there is no future.”

At its last meeting, the club voted to close in June unless it gets more members.

And Mr Ward is worried for the impact the loss would have on Dewsbury, already hit by shop and business closures.

Dewsbury Rotary Club was formed nearly 100 years ago and at one time boasted more than 70 members. When Mr Ward joined 30 years ago, membership was in the mid-50s. Now, it is 18.

“Since Dewsbury lost its own council, numbers have spiralled down leaving fewer and fewer people to do the work,” he said. “A number of members have been lost in recent years through illness and death and these people have not been replaced.

“The club can now only be saved if we get more members, especially younger people.

“We have struggled with low membership in recent years, but we are serious about folding if no new people come along.”

Dewsbury was the mother club which encouraged the formation of others in places such as Mirfield, Batley, Heckmondwike, Cleckheaton, Birstall and Ossett. But it now could be the first to close down.

“The membership is getting older,” said Mr Ward, who is 75. “Then it becomes a vicious circle. It is hard to bring new members because it is full of older people.”

The average age of members – who include Channel swimmer Eileen Fenton at 82 - is in the 70s. “Yet we are an active club,” he said.

Organisations which have benefited from the money raised by Dewsbury Rotary include Macmillan Nurses, Marie Curie, the local women’s refuge and Dewsbury Collegians.

Mr Ward said new members would be offered a sense of doing something for the community and charities. “There is a good social side too,” he said. Lunchtime and evening meetings are held at the Heath Cottage Hotel.

“I would hate to be the last president,” said Mr Ward. “It’s not good to be the one who presides over closure. And it would be sad for the town if we were to go.”

Anyone interested in joining Rotary should contact Mr Ward on 01924 468653 or marleneanddudley@talktalk.net