Breathing new life into an old club

New president of The Rotary Club of Oxford Spires, Stephen Axtell

New president of The Rotary Club of Oxford Spires, Stephen Axtell

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Blackbird Leys and Greater Leys. Call me on 01865 425403

AN OXFORD Rotary Club is trying to broaden its appeal to younger and working-class people with the appointment of its new president Blackbird Leys man Stephen Axtell.

The Rotary Club of Oxford Spires chose Mr Axtell, 48, as its president for 2014/15 last week.

He said: “Our club was set up to be a lighter version of Rotary. We only meet twice a month instead of every week - the idea being we’re more affordable than other clubs.

“We’re a much younger club than others. Most of our members are in their 40s.

“We’re just run-of-the-mill people with mortgages and families to support. We’re not rich old men throwing money at problems.

“We want to move away from that image and have people come along and check us out.”

The civil engineer, working at Oxfordshire County Council, said: “I want to help get more members, we only have 18 at the moment and I’m one of six men. I want to have more sociable events, which have fallen by the wayside a bit, to attract more people.

“In other cities people know they have a club and have heard of it, but in Oxford it doesn’t seem to have much of a presence.

“I also want to have more money for local charities.

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“We do some work for them now, but in terms of cash most of it goes to national and international appeals.”

He has decided that his presidential charity for the year will be Oxford Phab – a social club for people with disabilities.

Mr Axtell said: “It’s for physically handicapped and able-bodied people.

“My friend used to chair it so I’ve had a link with it for a long time and I want to to help support it.

“I’ve always had this liking to do voluntary work and work for charity.

“Rotary gives a nice balance of being able to meet new people and have that social side, but also work together and do things you probably wouldn’t do within your working life to raise money for charity.”

He joined the Oxford Spires club three years ago, but was a member of the Rotary Club youth faction when he was 27.

He said: “I wanted to broaden my horizons and have something to do that was more sociable outside of work, and I was looking for something to do with voluntary work.

“We can be quite varied, we don’t just focus on one area of need, we move from year to year to project to project.”

Meanwhile, about 120 Thames Valley Rotarians gathered at The Oxford Hotel, Wolvercote to welcome their new district governor, Tim Cowling.

Mr Cowling, a member of the Rotary Club of Faringdon and Districts, took over on July 1. His theme for the year is Light up Rotary. He told members at his inauguration on June 28, he is keen to dispel the image that Rotary is groups of elderly men having lunch once a week.

He takes over from previous district governor, John Greening. The district has 2,000 members in 63 clubs in Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Middlesex.

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