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William Holden

Visor Details

I promised you some background material regarding the PPE visors we've distributed, so herewith brief details.  You recall no doubt having a speaker about 18 months ago re the charity "Change Step NE" which rarely needs cash to reach it's targets, which are to extricate veterans from suicidal despair, and keep them usefully occupied while they readjust to civvy street! I originally thought this was one of their ideas; however it was simply the awareness of my Masonic associate who is an active participant in their activities.


He is Alan Anderson, a retired soldier, invalided out of the service with, from time to time, if not "black dog" certainly "grey dog"!    His depression forced him into the attention of that charity, and he does a sort of quartermaster job with them. Alan didn't come to our meeting, but put me in touch with his associate, the retired sergeant who came to speak, and is CEO of Change Step.


Alan it was who came to the Stanhope Lodge Permanent Committee, having identified a solution to the then vexed question of PPE, which of course was defeating the "experts" who were, in practice, defeated by source and distribution problems. He had met a man with a "hobby 3D printer", and had read about a Freemason in Lincolnshire who printed visors to give away to ambulance drivers  and care home staff vulnerable to infection, without normal access to PPE.


The rest is history. Alan introduced the Committee representatives to Gareth Lawton, an unemployed gardener from Crook, self isolating, and in a hobby group with his 3D printer, who having spent an hour or two preparing the process, knew what to do, how to do it, but without the wherewithal to purchase raw material, and without distribution facilities. Alan simply took care of that distribution, once Gareth had produced the goods. The Freemasons having simply ceased activity whilst pandemic conditions pertained, provided the first funding for a few hundred visors. The obvious recipients were care homes, who were becoming recognised as sitting targets, and their staff. Initially we thought we wouldn't manage to satisfy the demand, particularly since the care home finances were and are, very stretched, and unlike NHS establishments, are forced to buy supplies in. 


We also found that our local community hospital, being on a geographic limb, were always in need because supply never met demand, so there was no problem identifying the need.


Gareth worked hard to keep up with the demand, and mentioned to us that although he was unwilling to accept remuneration, he saw justification for installing another machine, so I knew about that before I even mentioned it to Rotary. We had only just commenced our Rotary Zooms and had chatted about fighting the pandemic by funding a worthwhile venture, so not having met Gareth myself, I arranged a telephone chat, as much to check his authenticity as the process, and found him tto be thoroughly impressive, very similar in attitude to Alan, whom I've known for years.


That was when I presented the idea into Rotary, having first ascertained that the District Grant was still available, which I applied for simultaneously with my proposal to the Club on 30th April/ 1st May. The rest as you know is a bit of successful history for our Club!