Open Sight raises funds
22 Oct 2010
Barrie Johnson addressing the lunch
Barrie Johnson addressing the lunch
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The Andover Branch of Opensight raised £2800 at a lunch in Penton Village Hall.

Below is the address given by its Chairman, Barrie Johnson

Ladies & Gentlemen, may I please have your ears!

As Henry VIII was heard to say to his wives, ‘I shall not be keeping you long’

My name is Barrie Johnson and I have the honour currently to be the Chairman of the Andover Branch of Open Sight (formerly the Hampshire Association for the Care of the Blind), known locally simply as the ‘Andover Blind Club’ to distinguish us from our sister organisation, the Andover VIPs.

We have put a small display in the alcove over there to give some idea of what the charity does which I hope you will take a look at . In summary the HACB was formed in 1922. Its HQ is in Bishopstoke, near Eastleigh and its mission is to support people with sight impairment, or who are at risk of sight loss, to reach their full potential and achieve their personal goals, independence, and live a full life. It provides advice and information on such things as benefits, employment, training, education and very importantly, daily living and resources such as sight aids. It has an outreach team which visits people in their homes to give advice. It also provides social interaction and there are 22 social clubs such as ours throughout the county.

Our club meets on the second and fourth Tues of each month at St Anns Hall in Andover. We have 21 volunteer drivers and helpers, 19 of them ladies and all but two of them living in the leafy villages around the town. We have some 25 regular attending members and about 150 visually impaired people in the local area with whom we attempt to keep in touch and who know where we can be contacted if they need us. Our volunteers pick our members up from their homes for each meeting and we provide them with tea and social chat, outings, pub lunches, armchair exercises, some craft work, quizes and entertainment. The average age of our members is probably around the 78 mark and several of them suffer from ailments associated with age as well their sight problems. But our members, some of whom are here today, are remarkably cheerful and stoical and our volunteers get a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction working with them.

Though we have a ‘mother ship’ in Bishopstoke we have to be financially self-supporting. Our volunteers claim nothing, though they are entitled to do so, and our overheads and administrative costs are therefore quite low. We raise our funds through small members subscriptions and the usual collecting boxes, street collections, bring and buy sales etc. We make an annual contribution towards central charity funds but our money goes on subsidising our outings and lunches, providing refreshments and the hire of the hall.

Thanks to your support we expect today to raise in the region of £2000 which will enable us to keep things going for the coming year.

Needless to say we are quite delighted to welcome so many of you here to support us today. I had visions of some of you, after the spending review announcements, turning up and asking for your money back. Our volunteers did a great job roping you all in, though this exercise brings to mind Oscar Wilde’s comment that ‘philanthropy has become the refuge of people who wish to annoy their fellow creatures’. I suspect that in the leafy villages one of the sure fire ways of losing friends is to cajole them into attending lunches in aid of a charities they’ve probably never hear of! But now we are on your map; please don’t hesitate to refer to us anyone you know with sight problems and please even give some thought to joining our band of volunteers.

In case I don’t have a chance to do so at the end, my thanks to the wonderful Diana Kruger our vice chairman, who has stitched the whole thing together with such skill and to Gillie Twine for coordinating the menu and the cooking and to all the volunteers who have played their parts so magnificently.

Thank you again for your support. Enjoy your lunch.

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