Fundraising in Lockdown

Masks for Martha Trust - Pat Wilson

This article appeared in the Spring 2021 edition of the Martha Trust newsletter

When I embarked on my first Martha Trust Car Challenge To Rome with my friend Jill Burford in 2016 in a £200 banger dubbed Bessie, I had no idea that my fundraising journey would last years and extend far beyond Rome.

Known for my quirky knitting and aided and abetted by some talented friends and sundry cast-offs from far and wide, we made a woolly patchwork cover for the car and paraded it round town shaking our buckets. The 2017 Challenge saw us head off to Monte Carlo and together with quizzes and a spectacular Casino night, raised thousands!

Spotted online by the craft events company ICHF, the journey continued with a three year association as Grans on the Make which saw us taking Bessie to the NEC and going on to raise funds for other charities through large scale community engagement projects. And so it would have continued but for the present situation.

Suddenly like everyone else I was having to adjust to a new normal. An empty diary, nothing to plan for and days to fill. It would have been easy to slip into despair. I could barely remember a time when I had nothing to do. Even on a cruise holiday in the Baltic I had mobilised fellow passengers to knit bees for Grans on the Make!

But I had an advantage. The years of collaborating with ICHF who so generously enabled our Grans on the Make fundraising had shown me firsthand the benefits of helping others. I cannot emphasise enough, that for me, fundraising has reaped immeasurable rewards far beyond money.

Like many knitters in lockdown, I embarked on my heap of ‘Works in Progress’. A pattern for facemasks from a friend coincided with Aldi selling bundles of assorted cotton squares, so I dusted off my sewing machine and made a few for my neighbours. They asked for more.

There is no doubt about the catastrophic economic effect the pandemic has had on businesses large, but especially small and those who have lost jobs or been furloughed. Who even knew what that meant pre 2020? Charities like Martha Trust have been struggling with the cancellation of their major fundraising events which provide significant annual income, requiring huge resources of creativity and ingenuity to stem the loss. Zoom Bingo and online raffles can only do so much – even when generous donors match fund them. 2020 has been devastating.

Economics apart, the additional strain on mental health has been far more widespread and for those who have never experienced it, confusing and scary. The enforced social isolation of lockdown left many of us grieving for our old lives. I was no different. Faced with apathy, misery and anger it is hard to find the motivation to do the things you know will make you feel better.

Even with the experience of previous years, the way out wasn’t immediately apparent. It was my neighbours who showed me that I could turn a small act into something bigger. And I am immensely grateful. It gave me a routine and a purpose which helped me cope and the long hot summer meant I frequently sewed in the garden with my sewing machine plugged into the shed! I was enjoying it and embarrassed by the praise I received. But the money rolled in and soon £10k was in sight. It sounds like a lot but it equates to a single afternoon’s ‘Music for Martha’ event outside the King’s Head. The cancelled 2020 Car Challenge to Florence left a hole of nearly £40k. (???)

It is impossible not to be humbled and frequently surprised by people’s kindness and generosity in a world so often full of outrage. Mention Martha Trust and the wallets open wide! The suggested £5 donation for a mask was almost always met with £10. Anyone who chooses to fundraise for them will get a lovely warm fuzzy feeling I guarantee. The enthusiastic
and dedicated team offer endless support and encouragement. It’s infectious.

Lockdown 3 feels different. Covid-19’s reach has got closer. I have family struggling on reduced incomes. I know people who have lost loved ones and the darker days make it harder to remain cheerful. The end of one year brought a natural pause and a period of reflection but like the burgeoning shoots and the budding hyacinths I can feel the stirrings of another plan emerging.

Watch this space!!

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