Annual Forum fits the bill

Our twelth Annual Forum was a winner, with something for everyone. Despite the torrential rain, there was an impressive turnout from members, supporters and volunteers alike at the fabulous Portway Lifestyle Centre, Oldbury. It was a great opportunity to socialise with friends over a cuppa and lunch, meet new people, visit our exhibitor stands, make decisions about our future and be entertained too.

Ryan Kelly giving his speech with Tony enjoying the event

The highlight for many was our guest speaker Ryan Kelly, better known as bad boy Jazzer from iconic Radio 4 soap 'The Archers'. Ryan, who has been blind from birth, told us about his journey to become an actor and some of the things he has learned on the way. We were also treated to an exclusive, behind the scenes insight into the world of radio production and the Archers itself.

Ryan Kelly mingles with SVI members

Longstanding Archers fans were starstruck as Glaswegian Ryan shared stories informally over a cuppa and posed for photos too.

Karen, Tony, The Mayor and Nigel Self

The Forum was officially opened by The Worshipful the Mayor of Sandwell, Councillor Julie Webb who praised our achievements since we first started 12 years ago.

SVI Chair, Tony Averis, talked about the challenges and opportunities ahead. He announced our move to new premises in West Bromwich Town Hall within the next couple of months. We are just waiting for some final adaptations to the building. This will give us a great opportunity to recruit more volunteers, develop the services we offer and will help us to grow and flourish as an organisation. We are also about to be part of a Sandwell Council consultation as they look at our funding options as part of the overall picture of council cutbacks. It's important that members and supporters get involved with this and make their voices heard.

Lindsay Delaney

Our Accountant Lindsay Delaney of John Pye and Co and SVI Treasurer Karen Averis reported on the state of our finances and took questions from the floor.

Another look at our future came when Nigel Self introduced the discussion and vote on whether we should become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO). This followed on from a talk on the subject at last year's Forum, led by Stuart Ashmore of SCVO. It was decided that we should accept the SVI Management Committee recommendation to move forward towards CIO status

View of the room while voting

We welcomed brand new Management Committee Member Kevin Betteridge, who brings with him a wealth of experience from Sandwell Council and his involvement in the RP Society Fight for Sight charity, along with his guide dog, Billy. We said goodbye, or au revoir, to founding member Graham Price who is stepping down from the committee after 12 years of energetic and committed service. And thank you to Matthew Carr who has also stepped down this year due to other commitments.

Kevin Betteridge

We love to acknowledge the hard work that our volunteers do, so we have a Community Champions award.

Community Champions

Our fabulous 'Gym Buddies' were the recipients this year, having supported so many of our members at the gym, with learn to swim sessions and many other activities in the community. They really have gone above and beyond.

Gina and Lisa selling raffle tickets

Gina and Lisa went all out on the raffle too, selling so many tickets that volunteer John had to go out on an emergency mission to get a new book of tickets! An impressive £184 was raised.

Forum attendees were treated to 'packed lunches' and some lovely warm samosas. Volunteer helpers and PAs from Proline went that extra mile (quite literally in many cases!) to assist people within the Portway Lifestyle Centre and with their food, drinks and to ensure that they had as enjoyable and relaxing time as possible. As well as longstanding volunteers we had some fabulous new recruits courtesy of Sandwell Volunteer Bureau. Big thanks to all.

Our volunteers

And it didn't end there. After lunch and in the break attendees were able to visit the stands of a range of eager local and national exhibitors. These included The Sandwell Macular Society Group, Healthy Sandwell, MyTime Active, Sensory Services, Wireless for the Blind and Guide Dogs to name but a few.

Some of our exhibitors

Feedback has been positive and people were clearly enjoying themselves.

Gina said: " Yesterday's AGM was a lovely relaxing day. Ryan our guest speaker was very entertaining and a lovely guy too. The whole day went well, well organised with plenty of helpers. I would like to say that the ladies who did drinks, collecting cups etc were very helpful and friendly. Yesterday for me made me thankful to be involved in such a fantastic organisation with people who like many have challenges in life, but also help and support each other. Well done to Sandra, Tony, Karen and all those that work hard to make it a perfect day. "

Helen said: "I thought that the day went very well. The volunteers were marvellous escorting people down to the room and helping people throughout the day. The food was excellent and I liked the idea of people having different things in the bag. The rain did not dampen the day as the day was well attended and the guest speaker Ryan Kelly was very good with his talk."

A full room

Faye said: "It was a very informative and interesting day and the time just flew by."

Bill said: "SVI's 12th Annual Forum run smoothly and everyone enjoyed themselves."

Lisa said: " I think that each year the Annual Forum gets better and better. This shows with the turn out of our members and friends that attend the event. The success is down to the SVI team who organised the day and to all the volunteers who helped and gave up their time for us. Tea, coffee and lunch was plentiful and the service was excellent. A good day was had by all."

Sandwell Macular Society Members

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to everyone who was involved in the organisation and funding of the day, including a grant from the Healthy Sandwell Micro Grants programme and the generous Friends of Bumble Hole whose fundraising activities helped pay some of the costs of the event. You are all stars.

Kelly with her Healthy Sandwell prize

The SVI ‘Be Healthy in Sandwell’ prize draw of a hamper of fruit and a pamper yourself voucher was won by Kelly, one of our hard working volunteers. SVI’s work with Healthy Sandwell continues, so keep a look out for new activities to start in the next few months.





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