Fund-raising first as Rhona prepares to make history

Rhona Dunn of Merleygate at Morpeth-first female President of the Rotary Club of Morpeth and is setting up a tree of light.'REF 1602154329
Rhona Dunn of Merleygate at Morpeth-first female President of the Rotary Club of Morpeth and is setting up a tree of light.'REF 1602154329

Community stalwart Rhona Dunn is hoping to make history in more ways than one over the coming months.

For the well-known charity supporter is set to become the first female President of Morpeth Rotary Club in June.

And for her main project for the year she hopes to establish Morpeth’s first Tree of Light.

The tree would be installed for Christmas, with people sponsoring a light in memory of a loved one. In addition, children could hang baubles of remembrance, and a book would be placed beside the tree to list those commemorated.

Mrs Dunn said: “I want to do something for the community, for Morpeth.

“I was reading the Rotary magazine and there is a Tree of Light in Telford and another one in Keswick where people make a donation to sponsor a light. There would be no minimum donation because I wouldn’t want to stop somebody who wanted to sponsor a light but hadn’t got the money – just any donation would do.

“There is a huge amount of work to do, but I put it to the business meeting of Rotary and I was surprised how enthusiastic people were about it.”

Sanderson Arcade has offered to provide the tree, and Mrs Dunn hopes that other businesses will get involved by putting sponsorship forms in their shops, or sponsoring the scheme themselves.

All money raised would go to charities connected to Morpeth, and with the Telford tree raising some £38,000 a year, it could be no small sum.

“In the first year we might not raise much, but I would like it to be an annual thing so as it gets better known the money will increase,” said Mrs Dunn.

“Any money that comes in would go to local charities that are part of Morpeth.

“For example, the Samaritans are based in Ashington, but cover Morpeth.

“The tree would be a first for Morpeth. It is my President’s project for the year, but I would like to think that it is carried on after that and will be something that everybody can appreciate.”

Mrs Dunn will take the helm of Morpeth Rotary on June 30 after becoming the club’s first female member three years ago.

She said: “It is years since Rotary International accepted women, but Morpeth wasn’t as forthcoming at first.

“I got to know the members when I worked in the flood furniture depot with them.

“My husband Jim joined first and he said to me ‘do you realise they can have ladies’, so I joined.

“I had tried the Soroptimists and Inner Wheel, but I had served in the Boys Brigade for almost 40 years, including Chairman of England for five years, so I had always worked with men and boys. I just felt more comfortable in that environment.

“I was warned that the club might lose members because of me, but nobody left, and to be honest, the support has been incredible.

“The members are so generous and warm-hearted and they have really gone along with everything – mince pies for Crisis, sponsorship for my Red Cross zip wire, getting involved with the food bank and Age UK. They do all sorts of things.

“We have three ladies now, and I would hope that the Tree of Light will raise the profile of Rotary so that we get more members, men and women.”