Going the extra mile for others

Major Jonny Bristow presents Eileen Wilkie (director) with the keys to Berwickshire Wheels new bus
Major Jonny Bristow presents Eileen Wilkie (director) with the keys to Berwickshire Wheels new bus

The staff of Berwickshire Association for Voluntary Service (BAVS) enjoyed a rundown of their achievements since 2013 at their recent AGM.

The charity has helped community groups across the county, with success stories including Chirnside Development Group and Cockburnspath Village Hall gaining funds to improve their facilities from the BIG Lottery Community Spaces Programme.

Cockburnspath Village Hall secured £67,000 to upgrade facilities, allowing them to put on more amateur dramatics and cinema productions, as well as the installation of solar panels to reduce the hall’s energy costs.

In a similar vein, Chirnside Development Group were able to secure £250,000, which went towards their £350,000 target to achieve a ‘fit for purpose’ Community Centre.

Another popular scheme has been the Keystone Quality Award, which has interested many of Berwickshire’s Community Halls.

Four of them have now gained the award in full, with 10 more part way through the process. The scheme helps such community groups, mainly with referential insurance rates.

Convenor Brian Sweenie said: “Our assets continue to increase. This success could not, however, have been achieved without the continuing loyal support of our volunteers, whether working in our shops or driving our vehicles, but always giving freely of their time and effort.”

He went on to pay tribute to development officer Philippa Wetton who is relocating to Edinburgh. “She will be sorely missed,” said Brian, “by the many local organisations she has helped to work their way through the maze of grant and funding applications. We thank Philippa for her hard work and wish her every success in the future. She will be a hard act to follow.”

But BAVS continues to move on, he continued: “We continue to modernise our fleet of vehicles and recently we have been successful in obtaining a new bus from the Armed Forces Community Scheme.”

Meanwhile the charity’s executive officer Tony Fowler reported that demand for services continued to grow.

“Throughout the year there has been a significant increase in demand for our services,” he said. “We have worked with voluntary and community groups to address issues around governance, legal structures and provided bespoke training sessions on leadership and team building for both staff and trustees.”

BAVS development officer Allister Hart explained further.

He told the meeting that another six groups have been supported in their moves to charity status, bringing the total helped by BAVS in that way to 11 in the last two years.

He described how the charity continued to develop and improve with representation at local and national events.

BAVS has also continued to represent local interests on the East Berwickshire Fisheries Local Action Group.

The charity’s annual report also paused to reflect on “the sad passing of our friend and long-time President, Enid Elphinston who worked tirelessly to support our organisation and the communities we serve.”