HARD-WORKING fundraisers are desperate for new blood to help them publicise their work and collect cash for lifesaving lifeboats.
The Uxbridge branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) raises money for the popular national charity, but branch president, Stephanie Hillhouse, says the group would like to do much more.
“We have always been a small branch but it would be marvellous and a great help to me and my branch to have more people helping out,” she said.
“We are having problems at the moment, with our members being ill, and we are all getting older. We would like to do a lot more if we had more people.”
The Harrow branch of the RNLI also raises funds and holds talks in parts of the borough. Both groups are themselves in need of rescuing.
Harrow chairman Terry Wigington said: “A lot of people don’t realise we are here.
“Or people just think we stand outside Sainsbury’s with a bucket.
“We are trying to get us known in the area. Lots of people don’t understand the need for an RNLI branch without a lifeboat centre, but there are four lifeboat stations along the Thames.”
The volunteers organise fundraising fairs, sell souvenirs at community events and hold quiz nights to raise money, as well as visiting borough schools.
Mr Wigington and his wife, Elaine, who is souvenir secretary of the branch, first got involved with the RNLI on a whim.
“We went along to this quiz night held by the Harrow branch and they were talking about these new boats that had just launched along the Thames,” said Mr Wigington.
That was 2002, after the Government had asked the RNLI to provide its lifesaving service on the capital’s main river, the first time the RNLI had specifically covered a river rather than estuarial waters, and came about as a result of the collision between the pleasure cruiser, The Marchioness, and the dredger, Bowbelle, which resulted in the death of 51 people in 1989.
Mr Wigington said: “At the end of the quiz, they said this will be our last unless someone wants to take over.
“We thought it was too important and I felt someone nudging my elbow up and suddenly we had volunteered to keep it running.”
RNLI crews on the Thames are required to be afloat within 90 seconds of notification of an incident.
The ‘E class’ lifeboat used at Tower lifeboat station is the fastest in the RNLI fleet, and in the first year of service, the station became the RNLI’s busiest – and has remained so ever since.
Three other rescue crews are based at Chiswick, Gravesend and Teddington.
The Harrow group will be fundraising at the next Vintage Tea Gardens event at Eastcote House Gardens, in High Road, Eastcote, on June 16. Their next fundraising fair, at Manor Farm Hall, in St Martin’s Approach, Ruislip, is on September 21, between 10am and 2pm.
? If you are interested in joining the Harrow or Uxbridge branches of the RNLI to help them continue fundraising and informing people about the important work of the lifeboats across the country, contact Terry Wigington on 07887 648 046 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.