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At the meeting of Lodge Charity Stewards and Almoners the Provincial Grand Master, David Nelson, welcomed Alan Roberts, Richard and Steve of the Freewheelers EVS charity who gave a detailed and moving presentation of their work in Somerset and S. Gloucester. Key features are as follows:
• The Freewheelers operate an out of hours emergency volunteer service (EVS) as motorcycle couriers for the NHS.
• They are entirely dependent upon charitable donations, receiving no income for their work, and are not funded in any way by the NHS. Their services are utilised by hospitals in the area to carry blood, samples, documents, patient records etc. between 7pm and 7am every day and all weekends and bank holidays.
• Their motorbikes are usually low mileage ex-police BMWs and cost the charity approx. £13,000 each to equip with the necessary sirens, alarms and storage/safety facilities. They are driven by highly trained members (all holding Advanced Motorcycle Certification) who are volunteers. Each bike covers over 30,000 miles per year (3 bikes are in operation at any one time in the west, north and east of the county), and is in service for two years before being passed on to similar charities elsewhere. This keeps maintenance costs to a minimum. At present two bikes need replacing.
• During the last year the charity answered 3,408 calls and covered 139,000 miles. On average the three bikes answer 48 calls each weekend and at bank holidays approx. 70.
• Every pound spent by the charity saves the NHS £6 - £7. Unfortunately they are not eligible for lottery support as they serve the NHS. If they did not offer the service the NHS would have to pay for a taxi or utilise a front-line ambulance to carry samples to pathology labs etc.
• For the NHS to run a similar rapid response motorcycle service would cost £250,000 - £270,000 in this area alone, money which would not be forthcoming.
• The Freewheelers require around £35,000 per year to provide their service in this area. In 2008 they were awarded the Queens Award for Voluntary Service in recognition of their work as unsung heroes.
Following the presentation there was an opportunity for all present to talk with the charity members and ask questions. They were then warmly thanked by the PGM for their attendance and departed.
The PGM then proposed that the Lodges in the Province should aim to raise £15,000 over the ensuing year in order to provide the Freewheelers with a replacement motorcycle. This would display a record that it had been donated by the Mark Lodges of Somerset. He would also take the project up with Mark Grand Lodge to see if further support could be obtained. All present agreed that this be adopted as the new charity project, and Lodges would be encouraged to commence donating to the target. PGM stressed that there would be no “league tables” among Lodges, and they would only be expected to give whatever they could. This would take immediate effect with a final target date of the Provincial meeting in 2014.
For more information about Freewheelers