This week I want to pay tribute to two examples of the excellent voluntary spirit that exists in the Ashford Borough, allowing people to improve the lives of others in their own spare time.
The first was the launch last week of the Rolvenden Rocket, a catchy name for a new minibus service which enables residents of the village, and their various clubs, to have low-priced access to transport. The bus is a 17-seater, so is ideal for clubs and groups of all ages to use to get to events.
The scheme is the brainchild of Councillor Mike Bennett, and the funding to lease the vehicle for two years comes from Ashford Borough Council. But the key to keeping the costs down is that all the drivers are volunteers, properly trained and vetted, who are giving their time for free.
We know that, for all the joys of village life, being able to gain access to events and activities outside the village is essential, especially for young people. So projects like this can make a big difference to the quality of life. The Rolvenden Rocket will be organised on a day-to-day basis by Rolvenden Parish Council, and they tell me that they are already receiving bookings.
The other good example of successful voluntary activity was a unique concert in St Mary’s Church, Ashford, given by two choirs, one from Ashford and one from Germany. The guests were the Sangerkreis Halle Westfalen, who come from the area of the Teutorburg Forest. The hosts were the Ashford Invicta Singers.
The German choirs (male, female, and mixed) often travel abroad but had never been to Ashford before. The Ashford Invicta Singers have been around since 1991, and apart from the sheer enjoyment of singing raise large sums of money for local charities and good causes. They have raised more than £90,000 since 1991, and on Saturday raised just under £1,000 for the Pilgrim’s Hospice.
Equally importantly, the two choirs put on a great show, tackling songs ranging from Mozart to Leonard Cohen, with a number of show tunes along the way. Again, this shows the power of volunteering and the number of people in this area who will get involved.
This is a cheerful note on which to start the holiday season, so I wish you a restful and enjoyable August, and I hope we all return refreshed in September.