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Rotary president pride for Tom and Lynda

WELL-known Lurgan Road couple, Tom and Lynda Shields, have become the first husband and wife to serve as president of Banbridge Rotary Club.

Outgoing lady president Lynda recently handed over the chain of office to Tom, who will take up the reins for the Rotary year 2017-2018.

Looking back on her term as president, Lynda - who has been involved with Rotary since 2013 - said it had been a busy but rewarding 12 months.

“It felt a bit daunting at first, but I soon got into the routine and it was quite nice to have some influence on the decisions made,” she reflected.

Undoubtedly, one of the highlights for Lynda was the Daniel O’Donnell show in the Parish Centre, back in February.

The two families have a special bond as Lynda and Tom’s son Gavin is married to Daniel and Majella’s daughter Siobhan.

And, they are now both doting grandparents, sharing a lovely little granddaughter Olivia.

Lynda explained: “Daniel very kindly agreed to do the show totally for charity in my year as president.

“The show was an amazing success with a huge demand for tickets - people queuing from 5am at the Downshire and all tickets sold in just over one hour.

“On the day of the show, Daniel also very kindly made a visit to Donard Special School in Banbridge where he was an immediate hit with all the pupils and staff alike.

“Later that afternoon, before the show, he posed for photos for the Rotary campaign to eradicate polio, and he then performed from 8pm to 11.30pm to a packed hall and stayed at the end to sign autographs and pose for photos until 1.30am.

“A grand total of £15,000 was raised, with many of the other performers also performing for free.

“The three charities to benefit were Southern Area Hospice, Tiny Life and Donegal Mind Wellness, who were each presented with cheques for £5,000 by the Rotary Club.

“This is the biggest amount Banbridge Rotary Club has ever raised for charity and we are all deeply indebted to Daniel for his kindness.

“Banbridge Rotary Club presented both Daniel and Majella with certificates making them honorary members of the club.”

The club also welcomed other very notable speakers and guests during the year, including Dr. Spiro Antiochos, Chief Scientist at NASA, who gave a fascinating insight into the world of outer space, new space programmes and the challenges they face.

On Lynda’s president’s night in May, she had as special guest Zoe Salmon, former Miss Northern Ireland and Blue Peter presenter, who took part in a very entertaining question and answer session.

Zoe, who was also a competitor in Dancing on Ice, Masterchef and the Island, is a good friend of Lynda and Tom’s daughter Kerri, who, herself, was a runner-up in Miss NI in 2001.

The club also enjoyed the contributions of some excellent local speakers, such as Desi Quail, world renowned stamp and postcard collector; Jason Diamond, from the Tourist Office, who told many interesting stories about the Smyth and Ferguson linen families; and David Dodds, who explained how the Single Transferable Vote works in PR elections.

Lynda continued: “Tom and I also attended two All-Ireland Rotary conferences and, in June, we both attended the 100th Anniversary Convention of the Rotary Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

“This huge convention, attended by 42,000 delegates, was addressed by Bill Gates of Microsoft.

“We met Rotary members from all over the world which was really interesting, but, of course, they all want to visit Ireland, so we could have a huge influx of guests next year!”

Throughout her year as president, Lynda received invaluable help and support from club members, who assisted with many community projects, such as the planting of crocus bulbs in schools and care centres.

£1,000 was raised for Rotary charities, with members also collecting old glasses and bicycles to send to third world countries.

Lynda added: “I learnt the value of good team work in my year of office, and I hope I brought a feeling of wanting to work together to the members, as well as having some fun and enjoyment while doing it.

“It has taken quite a bit of time and commitment to do the job this year, as I am still working three days as a Senior Educational Psychologist with the EA, as well as having nine grandkids.”

As she handed over the chain of office to husband Tom, Lynda admitted she was looking forward to, hopefully, taking a ‘back seat’ this year.

Indeed, the Shields have become the first husband-and-wife team in the history of Banbridge Rotary Club to both serve as president.

“I think Tom is looking forward to it - with a little trepidation, as he knows the work involved,” Lynda revealed.

“He is planning to continue with the normal Rotary activities of charity fundraising and community support in his year, but he would like to concentrate on increasing the membership of the club and, if possible, introduce new members, both male and female, of all ages and interests who he feels would bring a new impetus and vitality to the club.”