The appeal for the proposed new Cowes RNLI lifeboat station took an encouraging step forward with a variety of money-raising efforts in both Cowes and East Cowes during Cowes Week and the days leading up to the regatta.
A significant cash boost came from Flag Days in both towns in which a total of £2,443 was collected. Among the enthusiastic collectors trawling Cowes High Street with buckets was well known actress Celia Imrie, who last April had launched the £1 million appeal. Literally cashing in on her fame, she decided to charge passers-by for her autograph and taking her photograph.
“She really worked hard for us for several hours,” said Anna Morgan Crockett, chairman of the RNLI’s Cowes Guild, of which Celia is the hon. president.
Despite some of the lifeboat crew spending long hours afloat during the regatta a fair number still found the energy to don their dry suits one evening and do a bucket-collection in various public houses. “Considering how brief the visit to each pub was, the crew were amazed their efforts raised £686,” said lifeboat operations manager, Mark Southwell.
There were also useful money-raising efforts for the appeal at the guild-run caravan in front of the proposed new station, the old Customs House, bringing in £1,340.
A further £120 was collected inside the property from visitors interested in viewing the plans for transforming the currently gutted building into the new home of Cowes’ Atlantic 85 lifeboat and its team of volunteers. Staff from the RNLI’s Poole headquarters, drafted in to explain the proposals, were also pleased with the number who had signed up as RNLI members, set to boost the appeal by £3,000. In addition significant contributions could eventually be forthcoming as a result of a special Cowes Week reception on the premises for VIPs.
Donations following successful rescues further swelled the appeal coffers. Three separate incidents collectively gave £220, and £20 came from an East Cowes mother after the lifeboat rescued three boys cut off by the tide at East Cowes. Then there were there more unexpected cheques: £200 from a woman from Greece, and a collection at an Isle of Wight woman’s funeral totalling £240.50.
Helen Wilkinson, the driving force behind the East Cowes Branch efforts, together with other branch members raised £1,278 with collections through the town – to be added to £1,158 accumulated prior to Cowes Week from collections in the public car park of Osborne House.
Although further sums are expected from the Cowes Week efforts it was already clear that the total value of all the appeal initiatives over Cowes Week and the previous week would reap well over £9,000 for the new lifeboat station. And still to be counted are collections by Cowes Guild at this week’s Speedway event at Smallbrook Stadium, and with the RNLI caravan’s attendance at an event at the Northwood Showground.
But with a target of £1 million for the appeal there was still a long way to go.