In 1999, the founding Chairman of Chiltern U3A was Ivan Hirsh, and in the November 2012 Newsletter he reflected on its early development.
The formation of Chiltern U3A occurred at a meeting organised by Chiltern District Council in November 1999 attended by 125 prospective members including myself. Immediately after that meeting, a number of volunteers discussed the formation of a Committee when I revealed that I was already an active member of U3As in Harrow and Beaconsfield. On the strength of that, I was persuaded to be Chairman of a steering Committee, most of whose members were elected at a General Meeting in April 2000 at which Chiltern U3A was formally constituted. Our membership by that time had increased to about 300, and we had 17 activity groups. Much has happened and improved since then, including the tremendous growth in membership and in the number and variety of our activity groups.
Another improvement is the Newsletter (an archive of newsletters is available by clicking on the members' tab above). The first Newsletter was a flimsy 3-page effort. We now have an excellent Newsletter, well suited to informing members about activity groups and other opportunities. The latter include discounts for members at various local shops (available by clicking on the members' tab above) – thank you Andrew. Also, we have a very useful Home Services Scheme (available by clicking on the members' tab above) which was boldly started by Peter Stickland. Peter started it while I was still Chairman, and I remember being told by other U3A chairmen that such a scheme would be a waste of time – advice which I am pleased we ignored. Our well-established and successful website, which was started in 2003, should also be mentioned.
Initially, we needed funding, mainly for equipment to be used at General Meetings and by some activity groups. Chiltern District Council helped at the start, but our main acquisition was from Rewards for All – effectively lottery money. We received a generous award of £5000 in 2001 and more later.
Putting modesty aside, another matter of which I am proud is the Gift Aid tax relief from which we benefit financially. Gift Aid tax relief was introduced by the Government in April 2000. I remember thinking that we could possibly enrol in this, but was advised by U3A Head Office that we were not a suitable candidate. Nevertheless we applied and, after complying with certain criteria, were granted Gift Aid status, and many other U3As have followed. As a result of this, we have received thousands of pounds.
When our U3A started, Chiltern District Council helped in a number of ways. More recently, we have benefited greatly from the facilities provided by Amersham Community Centre. It is very satisfying to have use of the various different-sized halls at the Community Centre. The Pottery Room in particular has been a great asset.
Finally, I am so pleased that we were instrumental in helping to start our neighbouring Chess Valley U3A in the true spirit of the U3A movement.